5 Ways to Cope With Negative Stereotypes About Your Illness
People with conditions like postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and chronic fatigue are often not believed. Family, friends and even medical professionals don’t believe we are as sick as we say. We often hear: Everybody has aches and pains. You are too young. You just need to pull yourself together, stop being lazy and push through it.
Millions of people struggle with chronic illness. In addition to the pain and loss of energy, they are also forced to endure added stereotyping. People may perform poorly in situations where they feel they are being stereotyped. They may be more aggressive after they’ve faced prejudice in a given situation. They may exhibit a lack of self-control. They may have trouble making good, rational decisions. And they may over-indulge on unhealthy foods.
In order to cope with stereotyping, my advice is:
1. Connect with peers. People with chronic illness are better able to cope with the stigma attached to their condition if they have the support from a group of peers who are experiencing similar problems. There are many different support ground online.
2. Be an activist. When people with chronic illness band together to argue for better understanding, services, and policies for all those who suffer from the same condition, they also argue for the associated stigma to be removed.
3. Walk away. Choose to walk away from stressful situations when it is best for you and your health.
4. Seek professional help. Having to deal with a chronic illness may make it necessary to get professional help. The stereotyping associated with getting help from a mental health professional can be greater than the stigma surrounding your illness. It is one of the reasons people don’t get the help they need.
5. Change doctors. If your doctor is impatient, obviously frustrated, or has suggested you’re making up your symptoms, find a new doctor.
When your chronic illness is misunderstood or simply not believed by the people in your life, it can be emotionally devastating. This is why it’s important to spend more time with those in your life who believe, support, and understand you and less with
those who don’t. If you associate yourself with people who are compassionate about your condition, it makes all the difference.
Getty photo by BerSonnE