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To Those Who Say They're 'Sorry' About My Illness

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As someone who is relatively newly ill, I often find myself in situations where people have seen my posts on social media or have heard along the grape vine that I haven’t been feeling particularly well. There are a lot of emotions that are wrapped up in the mess of chronic illness and there are a lot of things you could say to someone, but of course, most of the time, you don’t really know what to say.

I want to tell you, that’s OK.

There are often times that I don’t really know what to say about it either. Actually, I would say that I rarely know what to say to someone about my illness, and that is why it is often so difficult for me to know how to respond to your, “I hope it all gets better soon” or your, “I’m so sorry.”

I’m here to tell you, you don’t need to be sorry. I’m not sorry. I didn’t do anything to bring this illness on, and neither did you. You may feel sorry for me, but again, you don’t need to. I still have a wonderful life, filled with up’s and down’s as anyone does – but with this extra added challenge. I know how much stronger living with something like this makes me and those who love me. You will be stronger for knowing me and knowing what I live with every day and that is good.

You do not need to be sorry for me, for my family, or for hearing about my circumstances in the same way that I do not need to be sorry about telling you about it, or telling you that I cannot do something because of my illness. I do not need to be sorry for making sure that my life is a little easier. I do not need to be sorry for choosing not to eat something you made, or do something that you planned – just to be sure that I do not hurt your feelings when I know that whatever it is may make me feel worse. Some things just do not help me, but they may help you feel like you are helping me.

You do not need to seek to get rid of my symptoms or make me more comfortable, I know what things I can do and cannot do. You do not need to be sorry if you ask me to do something only to realize afterward that I cannot do it. It’s okay, you do not need to be a walking encyclopedia of my illness, I will not hold it against you.

You’re trying, so am I.

But neither of us needs to be sorry when we make decisions that may affect my illness.

I hear, “I’m sorry,” so much that I always respond, rather robotically, “It’s okay.”

To the people who let the topic then drop, I appreciate you. To the people who say, “No. No it’s not okay.” I appreciate you too. But know, you do not need to be sorry about something that you did not know or you did not think of. My issues are complicated, and they are my issues. Your wanting to be involved is more than enough to show me that you care, and I will keep you updated with how things progress. You may see me near tears some days or strong and independent on other days.

Just know, no one needs to be sorry about the things that I live with, they’re no one’s fault. It just happened. Also know, your level of involvement in my illness is entirely up to you. You can monitor from the periphery or you can be someone I go to regularly. I will not force my illness upon you. I will be open to speaking about it. I will be happy to share what my life is like with you, but you can make that choice, and whatever you choose, you do not need to be sorry. 

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Originally published: March 7, 2017
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