Don't Label Me as a 'Negative Person' If I Complain About My Illness


As a social worker, I am trained to put hope and positivity into the life of others around me. For the past two years, I have done just that with the clients I have worked with. I have seen my clients grow as individuals and blossom during our work together in our therapy sessions. Naturally, then, you can understand my confusion when someone very close to me labeled me as a “negative” person.

Negative? Me?

How could I – a social worker dedicated to bringing positivity and hope into the lives of others – be negative!?

But after days of self-turmoil and self-reflection, I made peace with the fact that despite me nurturing other people’s lives with the gift of positivity – I, myself, had become a negative person when it came to my own day-to-day life and overall health.

I guess positivity is the price you pay once you lose your health and face the constant loss of life. A life left over of “what could have beens and should have beens.”

A professor in my graduate school course once said, “Individuals with chronic illness should be treated in therapy as one would treat an individual who is facing the grief and loss of someone.” This comment really struck me and still resonates with me to this day. It all made sense to me, finally. Since after all, chronic illness is a constant lifelong grief over an alternate reality – an alternate life that your healthy self could have led.

You see, looking back before I got chronically ill, I had a life set in place for myself. I had envisioned my future self achieving great things and feats. I had taken many advanced placement classes in high school, allowing me to possibly graduate college in three years. However, after my diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, it took me the whole four years. I always wanted to get a doctorate, but I settled for a masters. Some would label my work ethic as “lazy” or “negative,” but my work ethic is “tired of being sick.”

I think what most people do not realize is that for many chronically ill people, even getting out of bed is a huge daily accomplishment. To get out of bed and get ready when your whole body aches and your legs feel numb is just as much of an achievement as climbing Mount Everest.

So the next time a family member, friend, colleague, or acquaintance “complains” about how hard their life is, or how badly their day is going due to their chronic illness, please don’t label them as a “negative” person. Please don’t tell them to “look on the bright side,” that they “at least don’t have cancer,” or that they “should be thankful to be alive.”

Many chronically ill individuals struggle each day. They face the grief and loss of a healthy body and a healthy life. Whether that loss is huge – such as they lose someone they love, because they cannot deal with the stress of marrying a “sick person” – or whether that loss is small, because they simply can’t make it to school and miss a quiz. Whether big or small, a loss is a loss.

Us chronically ill individuals go through the grief and loss process for many days, many months, and many years. Please don’t be another voice in the crowd who tells us to “get over it.” You wouldn’t say that to a person who just lost a loved one or got diagnosed with cancer, right? So why would you say it to someone who struggles emotionally, mentally, and physically on a daily basis for life?

And to those who can understand and can relate to what I just wrote in this article, just know that you are not alone. You are brave. You are courageous. You are a warrior.

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