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We Need to Stop Talking About Chronic Illness in This Particular Way

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Have you ever noticed how people talk about illness, even mild illnesses like colds?

We often say we are fighting them. We battle colds and fight the flu. We call our friends with scary medical conditions “warriors,” and we encourage them in their “battle” against their illness.

It’s true that the people who are living with illnesses are pushed to a limit. We have hope, and when don’t have hope we fight to get it again. People who live with illness are fighters, and it would be an injustice to not acknowledge the fight we experience so often.

But, the truth? I hate when people tell me to fight or that I am a fighter or some other variance of “to fight.” I fight every day, and, generally speaking, I do a pretty good job of hiding both my physical and emotional pain. When I let you see my illness, it’s because I don’t want to or can’t fight anymore. I need your help. When you reply, “you’ve got to keep fighting,” you place all the burden back on me when I need someone to help me. Because I fight every day, and I’m tired. I’m tired of living like this: fearful, guilty, ashamed, melancholy and in pain. But I put that burden back on, and I try not to bother you anymore.

I think the “battle rhetoric” we use about illness is more harmful than helpful. It’s tiring and isolating. It makes us question who will force us to fight alone or who will allow us to rest, if only for a few minutes. So, if you can and if it is safe for you to do so, take a moment to really listen instead of sending us back into battle. You have no idea how much you can help.

Photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash

Originally published: February 7, 2019
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