To the Person Who Told Me I Would Get Better If I Just Got a Job

I’m pretty honest about the fact that I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis. I’m honest about it because I don’t want to feed the shame I feel sometimes about being sick and not being able to do the things I want to do. It’s not an excuse, but it helps give people some context about my life.

I found myself in a casual conversation with someone who told me, “You would get better if you just got a job.” I forced myself to smile while I held back tears. I listened as he expanded about how the problem was that I didn’t have something I was passionate about, and if I just found a job, I would be passionate and want to live better. I listened as he talked about his job and how much he lived for his work and how important it was to his well-being to work all the time. I watched him drink his large coffee and felt misunderstood.

I already have a full-time job taking care of myself. It’s slow progress and most of my efforts are towards healing — healing so I can work full-time again without it depleting me. Not because I think a job is the most important thing in the world, but because I’m extremely passionate about my goals and wanting to help other people heal.  

I get upset with this prevalent idea that people with chronic illnesses are lazy, unmotivated or seeking attention. I feel like this person was actually trying reassure himself that he won’t get sick. It’s like he was creating an illusion that he isn’t vulnerable. I understand I’m a walking reminder that things in life can happen when you least expect it. It seems society is afraid of vulnerability because they equate it with weakness.  

I wish I had said this to you instead of forcing myself to smile and holding my tongue:

“I am strong, I am not fighting a disease, I am living. I am doing the best I can with the body and tools that I believe God gave me. I do my best not to take things for granted because I have experienced many times how quickly perspective changes.  

Everyone on this planet has experienced losing someone they love, disappointment, rejection and other life-changing events. Some people are quick to forget about our mortality, but I am a reminder of that. I am a reminder that life can change in an instant, and I know it can be terrifying, but I am proud to be a reminder to live life, to stop taking things for granted and that human beings are vulnerable.  

Maybe next time instead of offering some sort of advice to fix something you don’t understand, you could take the time to listen. You will take the time to acknowledge your own vulnerability and fears, and then we can have a conversation.”

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