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9 Words You Need to Know From the Chronic Illness Warrior’s Dictionary

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Did you know that the word “fart” means speed in Sweden, Denmark and Norway? Or that Aussies call a pair of flip-flops “thongs?” How about the fact that the word “gift” actually means poison in German? Pretty “weird,” right? That goes to show that the same exact word can actually have two completely different meanings for different people depending on their religion, culture, ethnicity and, most importantly, their experiences.

Here’s a list of nine words that mean something completely different for people with a chronic illness:

1. Tired

We wake up tired and we go to sleep tired! “Tired” for us is a constant feeling, regardless of how much we sleep or rest. Come to think of it, the word “tired” doesn’t even do us any justice because it’s our norm. When we “complain” about being tired, it’s probably when we feel like a dead body walking around!

2. Spoons

Unlike others who think of cutlery, the second they hear the word “spoons,” chronic illness warriors think of spoons as something they only get a limited amount of. Confused yet? Don’t worry, let me explain: spoons are used to describe the idea of limited energy, and they may be used as a unit of energy itself. It stems from Christine Miserandino’s personal story called “The Spoon Theory.” The next time you hear someone say “I’m all out of spoons,” you might want to consider if you’re speaking to a chronic illness survivor or someone “healthy” because depending on who you’re speaking to, the meaning can be quite different!

3. Pain

Our definition of pain is totally different than yours. We are used to being constantly in pain — every single second of our lives. It’s for this reason that any time I hurt myself and get asked if I’m in pain, I never know what to say. Because it is a part of our very existence.

4. Symptoms

Symptoms are usually what show up once in a while for most people in order to indicate the onset of a disease or illness. However, since our symptoms show up every day, we don’t take them as a warning that something is wrong. They’re nothing out of the ordinary — just a part of our daily lives.

5. Invisible

Chronic illnesses are also very commonly called “invisible illnesses” because they aren’t easily visible to other people. However, our illnesses are anything but invisible to us! And our lives are anything but “normal” because we are constantly struggling internally. The fact remains that there’s way more to a person than what you can physically see.

6. Battle

Our battles are with our own selves — more specifically, our bodies. We are forever fighting a battle that no one can see. We are constantly torn between the mindsets of “I can’t let this illness take over my life” and “I have to listen to my body and rest.”

7. Sick Day

Sick days are a whole different ballgame for us. The reason being that the “sick days” we get from work actually disappear with a snap of a finger! How so, you may wonder? Because technically, every day of our lives is a sick day. In fact, if we were to start taking the number of days we actually feel sick into consideration, some of us would probably never even get to cooking or doing our laundry, let alone making it in to work. Sick day or not, obligations must be met!

8. Doctor’s Office

Our calendars are filled with endless doctor’s visits and medical procedures. For some of us, the doctor’s office actually feels like home, and for others, it feels like visiting a close friend. Walking down a hospital corridor feels like walking down the aisle of a grocery store: so familiar. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing scary about blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, CT scans or any other medical procedures — we are always open to trying the newest treatment options! In other words, bring it on!

9. Friends

These aren’t necessarily people we hang out with during our free time. Our friends need to be extremely considerate and non-judgmental: people who understand if we don’t speak or see them as often or when we have to cancel plans at the last minute. Because, truth be told, we spend most of our free time recuperating from our obligations and responsibilities. We only have enough energy to socialize once in while and they get it! That doesn’t stop them from shooting us a text and popping in to check up on us!

I hope you enjoyed this insight into a chronic illness warrior’s dictionary! Next time you hear anyone of us use these words, you’ll have a better idea of what we are trying to say. BTW, here’s a bonus word: spoonie. It refers to someone living with a chronic illness.

So allow me to re-introduce myself: Hi! My name is Sara and I identify as a spoonie. Why don’t we take this opportunity to get to know each other – please introduce yourself in the comments below!


Follow this journey on Fabulous & Fatigued.

This story originally appeared on Fabulous & Fatigued.

Getty image via nensuria.

Originally published: October 22, 2019
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