5 Things Your Friend With Chronic Illness Wants You to Know
Or, at least, here are five things this chronically ill friend wants you to know:
1. I’m not being dramatic or seeking attention in any way.
Quite the contrary, actually. I work in the emergency room and I know what symptoms or vital signs get you attention, quickly. Because of this, I am incredibly hesitant to share my struggles with anyone, because the last thing I want is medical attention or people taking care of me. I suffer in silence (literally) because I don’t want the attention.
2. I put an incredible amount of effort into acting and appearing “normal.”
My current treatment consists of five daily doses of supportive prescription medications, twice weekly Lactated Ringer infusions and three to four days of moderate cardio to keep my system in check. I drink Pedialyte before a dinner out with friends so I’m less symptomatic and look more “healthy.” I don’t tell those friends I’m out with when I’m feeling dizzy or lightheaded. It may all be an illusion, but it’s not without valiant effort.
3. I actually don’t hate the phrase “but you don’t look sick!” (see #2)
It’s a common thing in the invisible illness world; people complain about friends who say things like “but you don’t look sick!” So, this may rock the boat quite a bit, but I’d like to admit that personally, I take it as a compliment. I do so many things each and every day to achieve that exact persona, so I’m happy to hear it’s working well. I may show up to the birthday party looking just as put together as everyone else, but what you don’t see is the IV infusion I got the day before, or the three times I had to take a break from putting my makeup on because my vision was blacking out – after laying on the bathroom floor for a few minutes with my feet elevated, I get back up and finish getting ready. This is all so I don’t look sick. So, thank you. Glad to know the effort is paying off.
4. I don’t pity myself, and I don’t think you should either.
Don’t get me wrong… do I ever wish I didn’t have to take so many daily medications or weekly IV infusions? Absolutely! Am I envious when a group of friends goes on a hike or does an activity together that I just can’t handle attending? For sure. Every time. But I am equally aware of another emotion – gratitude. I am thankful for the access I have to healthcare and to medications, for my ever increasing level of activity, and for my ability to maintain a job I dreamed about for years. Every single one of my pity parties ends in thankfulness, and I hope yours will too.
5. I don’t want you to think my health is a taboo topic.
If you are one of the few friends I have confided in who knows about my chronic illness, please don’t shy away from talking about it! If you have questions, ask them. If you’re curious about something, let me teach you! By asking me how I’m doing you are reminding me that people still care.
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Thinkstock photo via Dragan Radojevic.