The Mighty Logo

We Have to Stop Blaming Chronically Ill People for Getting Sick

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I am sick of being made to feel like getting sick was my fault, and that staying sick is my fault.

People who are chronically ill cannot always be blamed for being chronically ill.

I recently had an encounter with a disability lawyer, who told me my pain is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and if I just stop thinking I’m going to be in pain, I won’t be in pain.

…Uh huh. Last time I checked, that’s not how pain works, especially when I told you how it’s caused by my genetic connective tissue disease that causes me frequent joint dislocations and subluxations. But OK mister, you keep living in whatever dreamland you inhabit!

He’s not the only one who’s suggested this over the years. It’s just especially ignorant because he happens to be a disability lawyer! But unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve been blamed for my illness or for perpetuating it.

I was recently reading a book about healing with essential oils, that said chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and even allergies are all caused by nutritional issues. I’m not here to hate on essential oils or nutritional adjustments as ways to help improve your health. But nutrition is most certainly not always to blame and is not the only factor that leads to these diseases developing.

I know, yes, it can help improve symptoms for some people and maybe there are people out there who have gone into remission or something because of changing their diet. I’m by no means against anything that helps anybody!

The problem is when we use controllable factors, like nutrition or exercise, to continually blame sick people for being sick.

Again, yes, there are cases where controllable factors are to blame for some illnesses. But even in a great number of those cases, there are often other factors, like genetics and family history, to be considered that are contributing as well.

I’m just so tired of feeling so guilty for something that was beyond my control.

I was 18 when I got sick, I was training at a pre-professional level to become a ballet dancer, I was about to leave for college at Purdue University. I was young and happy and healthy. I wasn’t “supposed” to get sick. But guess what? I did.

And it wasn’t my fault.

It’s so incredibly frustrating to have people insinuating that you must have done something wrong and that you’ve brought this upon yourself – that you could fix it if you really wanted to.

I know me becoming sick was beyond my control, but I do often wonder why I can’t get better, and hearing comments like this from others really creates a lot of self-doubt in my mind. I know deep down that I’m doing everything I possibly can to get better, but these comments are hurtful and make me feel as though I’m never trying hard enough, even though I literally put my blood, sweat and tears into getting better every single day.

I never feel like enough.

What I want is kindness. I want less judgment and to get rid of the blame. I want to have my efforts acknowledged, and I want to feel like enough, because I am.

Originally published: April 6, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home