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To Those Who Call Me Lazy on the Days My Illness Is at Its Worst

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I have an autoimmune disease. This means the antibodies that are supposed to attack infections and keep me healthy actually attack parts of my body instead. And unlike being sick with the latest bug making the rounds, there is no rhyme or reason as to why my body goes on the attack when it does. My immune system basically has a mind of its own and dealing with the constant roller coaster of effects that has on me is exhausting. So when someone who doesn’t get it calls me lazy on days when I’m at my worst, it really upsets me. Here’s why:

Calling me lazy implies that I have a choice. It implies that for that day at least, you believe I have the ability to do something and that I am simply choosing not to do so. But the reality is, when I am in bed, it is not a choice. It is a necessity. My body has been fighting the constant attacks of my disease and has surrendered. It needs rest. And nothing I can do will overcome that need. Not dinner, not laundry, not even my kids who just want to go for a walk, because my body and this process is not under my control. And at that moment, I truly have no choice but to lay down. Believe me, I would much rather be living in a cleaner house instead of one where I see my own limitations daily.

Calling me lazy says you do not respect me or my situation. Calling me lazy is dismissive. It is judging me based on your perception of the situation. Yes, there is plenty of work not getting done. I rarely do dishes. My hands are no longer strong enough to scrub them. My house is cluttered. Bending and twisting to pick up stuff can be extremely painful. But to look at my house knowing that I have a chronic illness and expect it to be maintained at a certain level is insensitive and shows a lack of respect for a situation that I struggle with daily and has completely taken over my life.

Calling me lazy is the same as calling me a liar. When you use the word “lazy,” you are holding me to standards I cannot meet because I am sick. But the simple fact that you expect me to meet these standards shows that you don’t accept my diagnosis. It tells me that to you, my disease is just a word and that despite what every doctor has stated, you feel I should still be able to “perform.” But I have tried and continue to try daily. And using the word lazy to describe me negates not only all my efforts, but the reality I live with daily. And coming from someone who is supposed to care about me, that feels like a betrayal.

Calling me lazy makes me worse. Having a disease that comes and goes randomly and can cause daily pain has already put me in a position to have to work harder than others to get the same amount of work done. Loading the dishwasher may take others 10 minutes, but I will need to stop halfway through. Even on a good day, my hands will get sore and I will have to rest my back. But I still do it. Because it needs to get done and on that day, I can. So I push myself. But when people call me lazy, I push myself harder just to meet their expectations. And that’s not good for me. Overworking my body will only cause more flare ups and more severe pain. And chances are, I still won’t be able finish the tasks I take on. It’s a lose-lose situation.

So the next time someone feels like things in my life are not up to par, I hope they remember that chronic illness is a part of my life. Remember it is real and it affects everything I try to do. Remember that I do what I can when I can and then some. And think about how you would feel if you were trying desperately to reach a goal that in the end, you know you just can’t.

Follow this journey on When the Small Stuff Sweats.

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Originally published: May 23, 2016
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