Why Calling a Person With a Chronic Illness a 'Burden' Is So Hurtful

Someone who I once considered to be one of my closest friends told me I was a burden to her because I forced her to make sacrifices for me and because I can’t participate in many of the activities that most other teenagers can. I know I’m not the only person who has been called a burden due to their illness, but I’ll explain why I feel so strongly about that word.

The word “burden” can either mean “a heavy load that you carry” or “something difficult or unpleasant that you have to deal with or worry about.” My chronic illnesses are certainly a burden to my life. I carry them with me every day, often feeling physically weighed down by pain and fatigue. It is most certainly something unpleasant that I worry about, as I worry about test results, about how I will feel tomorrow, and about my future. Chronic illness may be a burden to me and my life, but I am not one to others because of it.

I did not choose a life with chronic illness. It is included in the cards I’ve been dealt, and I am working extremely hard to find a new normal where I can be the best and happiest version of myself. It may be true that my friends have to be conscious of my limitations when making plans with me. It is definitely true that my life is not one of a normal teenager. However, I have never and will never force anyone to treat me differently because of my illnesses, especially when all I want is to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

As for the friends of the chronic illness community out there, I am so lucky to say there are many of you who provide unconditional support and love to us when our lives are plagued with so much uncertainty. But to everyone, I urge you to remove the word “burden” from your vocabulary. People with chronic illness do not exert their illness to make the lives of others harder. All we want is to know there are people standing by us. We are acutely aware of the times that we make things more complicated, making time spent together less relaxed. Regardless, we should not be shamed for something we cannot control. It would truly be a shame for the amazing and beautiful people of this community to be seen only for a single detail part of their lives. We deserve pride, not pity or disrespect.

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