Why I Embrace the Word 'Can't' as Someone With a Chronic Illness


“It’s not that bad.” “Oh, I’ve heard of that. My friend’s cousin has it and she is fine.” “Why can’t you just fight through it?”

These and so many other phrases are ones I and many other people with any chronic illness have heard time and time again. And so, just like me, we learned to hide it from the world. We concealed our struggles, not letting anyone see to the point that even our families had a hard time breaking down our walls.

For me, it took me a while to even realize I was doing it. Society has taught me that I won’t be accepted for who I am. Trying to give reasons for why I am doing things the way I am are brushed off as excuses. One person in my life is always saying he hates the word “can’t,” because according to him, you can. And that’s nice and optimistic, which I try to be a lot of the time, but one word I will never throw out of my vocabulary is can’t. And it’s taken me years to realize that isn’t a bad thing.

Sometimes you just can’t do some things. To others with any sort of illness, it’s OK. We are the way we are, and society can’t change us. Some people may try to brush it off, but know that there are others out there who know your struggle. So don’t be afraid to use can’t if you truly can’t do something. Take it from someone who has tried when I couldn’t, and collapsed in pain and stress. Don’t let anyone else dictate what you can and can’t do. You know your body, you decide.

And to anybody who is on the outside, peering in at someone with an illness, stop and take a moment to think about why we say we can’t do it. Because, believe me, quite often we want to do it; we just are unable to. Stop and observe. We may try to hide it, but our eyes don’t lie.

I’ve learned to embrace the word can’t. It no longer means something negative to me. The meaning behind that one small word is much more than it seems. It’s an explanation for why things are hard, why I am unable to do things.

But won’t still means a lot. As in, society won’t accept me the way I am. People won’t care to look deeper into why I say the things I do. Society won’t learn.

Please prove me wrong.

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