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Comedian Josh Pray Shares 5 Things Everyone Should Know About Chronic Illness in Viral Facebook Video

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In March, comedian Josh Pray shared a video on Facebook about the five things he’s learned about chronic illness. The video has since gone viral, bringing in over 1.6 million views and 38,000 shares.


5 Things I’ve learned about Chronic Illness

Posted by Josh Pray on Thursday, March 14, 2019

Pray does not live with chronic illness but explained that he became interested in learning more about the different conditions after meeting a young woman who had Ehlers Danlos syndrome (EDS) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).

He asked her questions and did some research of his own, and soon realized chronic illness was much more common than he initially realized. “I didn’t know people around me dealt with the same disease!” he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 133 million Americans (or 40 percent) live with a chronic disease.

Pray, who describes himself as “curious,” often creates videos about different topics to increase people’s understanding of one another.

“I’m hoping that every video I do brings together culture and spreads love and excitement amongst people from all walks of life,” he told The Mighty. “I hope people can understand that through expression and acceptance we are all the exact same.”

To help raise awareness and share his learnings with others who might not be familiar with chronic illness, Pray broke down the top five things he learned.

1. “They can be fantastic today, and they can just be not into it tomorrow.”

Chronic illness is often unpredictable. Even if someone is able to participate in certain activities one day, there is no guarantee they will feel well enough to do those same activities the next day – or even the next hour.

Pray recognized that it can be difficult to understand how a person with chronic illness could be active one day and very sick the next, but said it’s important to refrain from judging.

“If you know a person that suffers from chronic illness, try to have some sympathy. Empathize with them,” he said. “Stop making judgments. Stop assuming stuff. Chronic illness can take a person’s emotional and physical strength [*snaps fingers*] just like that.”

If you can’t be understanding of the fluctuating nature of chronic illness, Pray recommended just removing yourself from the situation.

2. “Chronic illness is something that’s diagnosed and found often later in life.”

While some people might grow up experiencing early signs of their disease, for many others, symptoms don’t arise until later in life. The age at which symptoms begin can vary greatly and may depend on the specific illness a person has.

Pray explained that those who suddenly develop symptoms later in life may have difficulty receiving a diagnosis and treatment if the doctor doesn’t recognize or understand what they’re experiencing.

“The people that deal with it, they don’t know how to explain that, they’ve been fine most of their life,” he said, adding:

Now that they’re trying to tell the doctor what’s wrong, the doctor don’t wanna listen ’cause the doctor said since they ain’t shown no symptoms of this and they’re telling the doctor ‘of course I ain’t shown no symptoms of it but I got the symptoms now so can you please help me’ and the doctor don’t know how to help them because they don’t believe them!

3. “There is no cure for chronic illness.”

Chronic illness by definition is lifelong, meaning it cannot be cured. While some people may find certain medications or treatments help alleviate symptoms of their illness, living with a chronic illness means the illness will never go away entirely.

Pray joked about the many medications people with chronic illness often take to try and manage their symptoms, saying:

Those who deal with chronic illness, their bathrooms begin to look like a CVS or a Walgreens or a drug store over here. Their nightstand looks like a CVS! You lean over, you try to get some lotion, you knock down 45 bottles of pills just to make you feel better for that day!

Though many with chronic illness might find his “nightstand pharmacy” joke to be painfully accurate, it also highlights an important point. Well-meaning friends and family members are often quick to suggest certain “cures” for your illness in the hopes of helping you feel better. However, those with chronic illness have often worked with their doctor to try a number of different medications and treatments, and don’t require medical advice from someone who’s not a medical professional.

“As humans, we all know how hard it is to find cures for diseases already,” Pray said. “So when somebody tells you they got chronic illness, you’re like, ‘well why can’t you just take this pill, why can’t you just take that medicine, go get some Tylenol.’” He paused, stared into the camera, then joked, “Let me punch you in your face.”

“Don’t be insulting, don’t be rude to people,” Pray encouraged. “Empathize, sympathize, and if you can’t, remove yourself from the situation.”

4. “Chronic illness is a disease that you can’t compare.”

Though people with chronic illness may be able to relate to each other on some levels, it’s important not to compare your illnesses. Different illnesses cause different symptoms and side effects, and people are unique. No two individuals are affected by illness in exactly the same way – even if they have the same illness. As Mighty contributor Tab Moura wrote, “Choosing to compare illnesses is an unnecessary exercise in judgment, and it lacks compassion.”

Pray explained:

If you know a person in Mexico with chronic illness and you know a person in New York with chronic illness, do not compare the two. Do not say, ‘Well Carlos told me over here that he feel like this. Well Sarah over here in New York told me she feel like this!’ It can be two different cases, it can be two different atmospheres, two different lifestyles, two totally different situations!

Pray went on to explain that chronic illnesses are like DNA: they may look alike, but when you break them down, no two are the same.

5. “Those suffering from chronic illness have to be some of the most strongest, endurance-having individuals, mentally, I’ve ever met.”

In his final point, Pray explained that those with chronic illness are some of the strongest people he’s ever met. According to Pray, the young woman he spoke with who has Ehlers Danlos syndrome and POTS told him that many people don’t believe and don’t understand chronic illness. And when people don’t understand the reality of how chronic illness can affect someone’s life, the condition gets pushed out of the spotlight.

A lack of awareness surrounding chronic illnesses can have significant consequences, including less research, funding and treatment options, as well as decreased support and understanding from those around you.

“So for those out there who are dealing with chronic illnesses, I know you guys gotta have the mental capacity of Xavier in the X-Men,” Pray said. “Like y’all gotta sit there and put a helmet on sometimes and just breathe, stretch, shake and let it go.”

If you live with a chronic illness and aren’t feeling “strong” today, that’s OK. Whatever you’re feeling is completely valid. Mighty contributor Nancy M. shared the following reminder about strength:

Strength never seems apparent on my lowest days because my pain feels like it defeats me. Yet it’s there, in all of us. It is what keeps us going, fighting and breathing. It makes us try again even when we feel like it may be impossible. We don’t know what the future has in store for any of us. Add pain to the equation, and you could have fear about the future, but ultimately, you can also cling to the smallest flame of hope.

For all those struggling with chronic illness, Pray promised, “You will get a million prayers from me to you, hoping you all feel better, and hoping one day they find a cure.”

Many people with chronic illness have commented on the video to thank Pray for raising awareness and add other information they wish people knew:

“This video almost made me cry, I’m a Lupus and Fibromyalgia sufferer and you were 100 in everything that you said! Thank you so much for using your platform to bring awareness!” – Airrea K.P.

“Thanks Josh for raising awareness! Autoimmune diseases are financially, emotionally, socially, and economically burdensome as well as wholly misunderstood and underresearched.” – Cassie P.

“Thank you Josh for this, it has made my day. I suffer from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, malalignment syndrome, and so many more. Your 100% right we are some of the strongest people out there but so are our support systems… husbands… children… moms… friends and so on. It takes several doctors to care for us but it takes a army to keep us going emotionally physically and mentally. With out them we wouldn’t get by!!” – Jessica S.

“Already loved your videos but NOW you gained a HUGE FAN because THANK YOU! EDS and POTS person here!” – Hannah M.P.

Lead photo via Josh Pray’s Facebook video

Originally published: April 4, 2019
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