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5 Stereotypes I Fight as a Millennial With Chronic Illness

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As someone who used to shy away from confrontation and differing opinions, I’ve learned that having chronic illnesses and being a Millennial doesn’t lend itself to staying passive. I have heard it from all sides — family members, news outlets, influential people — what being a “Millennial” is like. What they don’t understand, though, is that being a Millennial with a chronic illness comes with a similar set of battles that we have to constantly fight.

1. I am not “lazy.” So often, this generation is told that we don’t work hard enough. As a person with health issues, I’ve been called this word as well. It’s like a double-edged sword; if I work too hard, I make myself sick, and if I make myself sick, I can’t work. When I can’t work, I’m then called just another lazy Millennial. What people don’t realize is how we’re up against different barriers when we go to school or to work, and have to push through those while maintaining some semblance of normalcy.

2. I am not “entitled.” I have certain things that help even out the playing field, because in all areas of my life, I am recognized as having disabilities. I did not want these things, but I do require them in order to just get by. Yet, I have been berated by people far too many times for using my accessible placard, despite it being none of these people’s business. Which leads to my next point…

3. I am not “sensitive.” Yes, so our bodies may not always be able to handle rigorous activity, but we are tough. Most people would likely find the daily pain and symptoms unbearable, but we push through. There are times when it is really hard and I want to cry under the blanket, but I’m allowed those moments because I carry on anyway.

4. I am not “selfish.” Health is priority number one, all the time. Of course there are a few times when I risk a flare-up for something I’ve looked forward to for ages, but I can’t do that every time there’s a Girls’ Night or dinner at a fancy new restaurant. We have to manage our bodies with self-care, and sometimes that means saying no to things we really wanted to do but realized we simply can’t.

5. I am not “coddled.” I have the people in my life who help take care of the things I need when I’m dealing with a flare-up, but I do my best not to ask for more than that. I remember back before I was diagnosed, how people would call me the aforementioned words and how hurtful it all was. Even getting the diagnosis did not mean that people suddenly became sympathetic or understanding. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: I did not ask for a chronic illness, and even if I had, I certainly didn’t do it to get attention because that is certainly not how it works.

I get the liberty to say that I’m proud of myself, and of this generation. There’s always going to be a disconnect from one generation to the next, and similarly, able-bodied people are going to have some misunderstandings about those with health conditions. This isn’t to say one can’t understand the other, but that communication is important instead of making sweeping generalizations about a whole group of people.

I am a Millennial with chronic illnesses, and even though the odds seem stacked against me sometimes, I won’t let them win. I know myself and what I’ve had to do to get where I am. I know the things I’m not, but I know what I am as well. I am capable. I am compassionate. I am resilient. And I am determined to break down the stereotypes.

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Lead photo by Thinkstock Images

Originally published: January 21, 2017
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