Why It Hurts More When Someone Close to Me ‘Jokes’ That I’m Lazy


First, I want to emphasize that the people closest to me try to be as supportive as possible. They know better than most people how my myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) affects me on my worst days — on the days I rarely leave my bed.

They can see behind the mask I wear for company and extended family. It’s because of this that it makes it worse when one of them “jokingly” calls me lazy.

What takes them only seconds to say often becomes something I brood over for the next few hours. When my mental health is fragile, I can allow their comment to fester for days, burrowing its way further and further into my thoughts.

It hurts much more to be called lazy by someone who knows how sensitive I am to other people’s perceptions of my illness, who knows how often I worry that someone will confront me for not “looking disabled” when using a handicapped parking space, who knows how many times I’ve cried over other people’s thoughtless comments.

It feels like they’re confirming what I already suspected — that no one believes I’m really ill, that I could be well if I wanted to be, that I just need to try harder and get out of the house more. That it’s my fault I’m ill.

It’s easy to be supportive when my illness barely impacts their life. The word “lazy” usually gets used when I do, or don’t do, something that inconveniences them. When I don’t come downstairs to unlock the front door, for example, they have to walk around the house to get in instead.

But if I’d used my limited energy to walk downstairs, I’d then have had to use the rest of my energy returning upstairs. I’m not being lazy — I’m pacing myself. I’m conserving energy in an effort to manage my illness.

Calling me lazy, even in a joking manner, isn’t a joke at all. To them or me. It’s a way of hurting me while pretending they’re only having fun and letting me know they sometimes agree that maybe I could try a little harder.

Hiding a hurtful comment behind a joke doesn’t mean that the hurtful comment no longer exists. The sting is still there. Their words have just as much power, if not more, to upset me.

Using a joke takes away my ability to respond without seeming like I’m too sensitive. Attempting to explain that I was hurt by what they said is a futile task. They simply tell me they were only joking, and I should lighten up a bit. I’m the one who seems to end up in the wrong.

I’ve learned that when someone jokingly calls me lazy, it says more about them than it does about me. It has nothing to do with my illness and everything to do with how the other person has a tendency to blame others when things don’t go their way. The best thing to do is to simply smile and let it go.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images


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