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The 2 Worst Words a Loved One Could Say About My Illness

“You’re fine.”

So simple, yet so hurtful.

These words are piercing to someone living with chronic illness. I can’t stand when others use the words “you’re fine” when speaking to me or about my condition. Sadly, I’ve heard it most frequently from those closest to me, who see me on a regular basis and know my condition. They know I do everything in my power to control the pain, they know I have been seeking help for years, and they know I spend my life in doctor appointments and going through procedures. Nonetheless, I still hear these words and I honestly don’t know why or where it comes from. Whether they are fed up, tired of me always being “sick” or tired of me being miserable and in pain, I don’t know the reason. But what I do know is how hurtful it is.

Saying “you’re fine” to someone with chronic illness is like saying, “Stop overreacting,” or “You are being dramatic.” No one else is living in my body, enduring the pain and struggles I face on a daily basis. No one else knows what it is like to have to live like this. So telling me “I’m fine” only infuriates me more. I am not overreacting, although I sometimes feel like I need to to get someone, anyone, to recognize that my condition is not one to be overlooked or neglected – that it is real. Just because there is no diagnosis of a physical medical condition or physical abnormality they can clearly see on all the tests does not mean I am “fine.” There is much more to the practice of medicine than test results and numbers. Yes, my lab results may be in the normal range. Yes, the only conclusion from all these tests is that I have “unexplained inflammation,” but that does not mean I am fine.

At times I feel like my family uses these words in the “heat of the moment” per se, or in a moment of frustration when they’re tired of hearing me say how intense the pain is, or when we are out somewhere and I am begging to go home because I need to lay down. But what they don’t realize is I am frustrated as well. I’m frustrated I am living like this and I’m fed up with it. I can almost guarantee my level of frustration exceeds how frustrated they are from hearing me complain about how painful it is to eat or how I wasn’t able to sleep last night because of the intensity of the pain. I am the one who has put myself through countless procedures, fasting for 12 hours and being stabbed with needles that often collapse my veins on a regular basis to draw blood – only to find in the end there is still no answer. I am the one who has to force food into my body everyday when it only causes my body further distress. So trust me – I am frustrated, to say the least!

A family member actually said to me, “Am I supposed to feel bad for you just because you’re ‘sick all the time?’” No, I’m not asking you to feel bad for me, I’m asking you to show that you care and even though you can’t fix it, you can help me feel better by not treating me like that. Maybe you could just remind me that you are thinking of me and you want to see me well again one day. Tell me you believe in me and know I am strong enough to keep fighting. Just be there to show your support or remind me there is hope that one day I will get an answer, a diagnosis or a treatment.

I’m not asking you to fix the problem or figure out a solution. You are not a doctor. You are my family. Helping to pick my spirits up and helping me believe there is hope would mean so much more to me than being told the words, “You’re fine.”

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