10 Things Not to Say to Someone on Bed Rest With Chronic Illness


This week I was put on “bed rest” by a doctor for the second time (before I have even turned 23 – what a feat). So the last few days I’ve been spending way too much time on the internet. All the blogs I could find on “what not to say to someone on bed rest” were all focused on pregnant women. The irony in this? I’ve never been pregnant! Nor am I planning to be in the near future. So I couldn’t really relate to what they said.

With my chronic, somewhat diagnosed illness I have found a lot of comfort in reading blogs about others going through similar situations with their own chronic illnesses and treatments. But I couldn’t find anything for what not to say to someone chronically ill who is on bed rest! So here is the list of things I hate people saying to me:

1. “I know I could never lay still for that long.”

When someone tells me this, I’m never quite sure if it’s a compliment. Do I say thanks? I mean, sure, I’m “good” at following doctors’ orders most of the time. I try to take my meds when I’m supposed to and I really hate passing out, so that tends to help me stay flat on my back.

Sometimes when visiting a friend who is chronically ill it’s best not to mention your internal thoughts about how grateful you are to not be in their position. It doesn’t exactly help boost our morale.

2. “Isn’t bed rest only for when you’re pregnant?”

Yes, bed rest is common for high-risk pregnancy, but it’s not the only reason your doc might want you on bed rest. According to What to Expect, “Bed rest can mean different things to different doctors, from just getting off your feet every couple hours to a hospital stay. It’s estimated that activity restriction is still being prescribed in about 20 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. each year.”

In my case, I’m on bed rest because whenever I stand up my heart rate spikes and my blood pressure plummets. In other words: I pass out! If anyone could manage passing out 10+ times in one day, landing in the Urgent Care, getting IV fluids just so they could see straight and still manage to not be put on bed rest, I would give them a gold star. So yes, I am allowed to walk around the house. Just very carefully.

3. “You really shouldn’t be on bed rest at your age.”

The problem with people saying this is that it makes me feel completely helpless. They are not my doctor. WebMD might give you some crazy statistics, but my world-renowned cardiologist’s instructions will upstage a Google search every time. ​I do appreciate when my friends take the time to understand the basics of what my diagnosis means, but there’s a fine line between being compassionate and being condescending.

4. “At least you’re still alive.”

This is a big no-no! How does anyone respond to this? Thanks? They just told me my life is better than being dead. ​It may be a blessing of sorts to not be dead after my last trip to the doctor’s office, but I really wish that wasn’t the only ray of sunshine. If I really do look like death, offer your companionship – don’t tell it to my face! You’d be amazed the difference a nice pair of fuzzy socks can make during a hospital stay. Do something, bring something, crack a non-medical-related joke…anything! I can’t even stand up to go to the bathroom without losing vision for a few seconds. It’s not exactly like I’m living the high life, so even a little ray of sunshine can make a world of difference.

5. “This must all be caused by anxiety.”

Having personally been sick for two years straight, chronic illness has caused me a bit of anxiety. Sure, anxiety can cause insomnia, nausea, poor concentration or the sensation of an abnormal heartbeat. But if a doctor has already prescribed bed rest I think that taking care of anxiety isn’t going to be the magic bullet today.

Hopefully most doctors would figure out if it is anxiety or another underlying mental cause before getting to the point of prescribing bed rest. No, this is not an “out” for me to say I don’t have the energy to get up. Yes, my chronic illness does give me a decent amount of anxiety, but I deal with it.

6. “You just need to eat less sugar.”

Yeah, I try that…but feeling like crap every day for what feels like an eternity just makes me crave chocolate! Adulting is hard, but I do normally eat healthy food. And yes, I have been tested for diabetes. Chocolate may just be the saving grace of any unfortunate soul who has to go through the hell otherwise known as bed rest. If you want to really make their day: bring them chocolate.

7. “Well at least you didn’t want to go to _____.”

I may not have wanted to go to that concert last week before all of this craziness, but anywhere sounds better than my bed or the couch right now. If you want to help me escape, your company helps more than anything else. Just talk to me! I get enough time watching a screen by myself during the rest of the week. Your company makes a world of difference. So just be yourself and talk to me while you are here! Please, please don’t suggest I should want to go elsewhere.

8. “Are you ever healthy?”

Having been noticeably ill for over a year now, I get this one a lot. Sometimes it’s well-intended, but other times it just stings. If I knew how to magically make all my health problems go away I wouldn’t be considered chronically ill. I also would most definitely not be on bed rest! This isn’t the first thing on my bucket list by any means.

On a more serious note: sure, I have better days, but it doesn’t make things any easier to be asked such a deep question. ​If they mean it as a joke, it’s just not funny anymore.

9. “Even with Netflix and Hulu, you’re still bored?”

The ability to stream movies and TV at will may be a life-changing innovation, but it has yet to be a cure-all for boredom. There’s only so many TV episodes you can watch before you just can’t watch any more. Believe me. ​​Again, your company can make a world of difference. Yes, there are limits to how much time I can spend with visitors throughout the day, but it is nice to have a person to interact with every once in a while.

10. “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” ​

I’ve been asked this question by ER doctors (after their normal intake survey), and yes, even by friends. I am 100 percent positive I am not pregnant. Seeing as these “problems” have been going on for over a year, I doubt it’s all morning sickness. Oh, and being a virgin helps too!

​It’s important to note that even if your friend has gained weight, be very careful when asking if they are pregnant (especially if they are chronically ill). I shouldn’t have to explain this further, but let’s just say that it’s not the most flattering thing to ask a woman on bed rest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my post as much as I enjoyed writing it. Deep down, it’s important to remember that most people (who are close enough to know you are on bed rest) truly do care for you and don’t say these things to make you more miserable.

Have you had anything said to you while on best rest that was at least a little ridiculous or uncalled for? I would love to hear about your experiences. Tell me all about it in the comments section below!

This post originally appeared on The Happily Honest Blog.

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