themighty logo

To Anyone Who Is Afraid to Complain About Their Illness


Are you afraid of complaining about your chronic illness? Are there times you hold back because you are worried about what the other person will think?

I don’t talk much about my health problems often, not even to my spouse. In fact, he complains about his pain more than I do and he’s perfectly healthy. When he was complaining the other day about how much he hurt after playing basketball I realized how ridiculous it was that he feels he can complain about pain he inflicted on himself while I, who feels horrible pain at all time, say nothing. The fact that I don’t feel I can complain is my fault though, not his. I am afraid of complaining. Sometimes I get too used to faking well and I never let my guard down and acknowledge my broken body. I try to follow the “fake it until you make it” principle, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the pain just takes over everything, and faking it or having a positive attitude can’t fix what is broken. The truth is, though, that sometimes I want “faking it” to work. I hold onto the hope that if I fake being well enough then maybe it will eventually come true.

Why are sick people so afraid of complaining? Because we have chronic health problems we are used to not being taken seriously. We know that most people don’t care about our chronic conditions, and yet we are supposed to care about other people when they get sick. I for one am tired of feeling that I’m not socially allowed to acknowledge how miserable I feel on a regular basis. Healthy people complain all the time about their health, but those who have chronic illnesses are just expected to never talk about it? That is backwards. Sure, none of us want to be around that person, the person who is always complaining about how hard their life is, but surely there is a balance between the two.

Too often I hold back because I don’t want to burden the other person, but no one else holds back in fear of placing the burden on me. I’ve often listened to other people talk about their (temporary) illness and I’m very sympathetic because being sick is hard no matter who you are. Now it’s my turn to be listened to. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I am not doing very well because I am hurting and I am exhausted.” Just because that is true for me more often then it is in a healthy person doesn’t invalidate the complaint. My goal from now on is to let myself share how I feel instead of pretending everything is awesome all the time.

This blog was originally published on Chronic Mom.