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The 2 Most Frustrating Questions You Can Ask a Person With Invisible Illness

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Being chronically ill does not make you exempt from all those questions you wish people hadn’t thought of but proceed to ask anyway. The annoying, eye roll, please-stop-talking questions. In fact, like a moth to a flame, they come in tidal waves. Never-ending.

Now if I had a broken leg, would I still be asked these questions? No. Because let’s face it: a huge cast on my leg would do the trick and quell any thought or question that was about to leave that person’s brain. You don’t tend to second guess or even ask questions about an illness or condition you can see – that’s second nature, and what we as human beings are processed to do, but an “invisible illness” is just that – invisible. We are completely and utterly vulnerable to questions.


Although the question might be genuinely from the heart, with genuine care and concern, and no offense intended, sometimes it’s the last thing I or anyone in the same situation want to be asked.

So, those questions:

“What about this, have you tried X, Y, Z?” (Usually followed by “…because Betty’s cousin’s sister tried X, Y, Z and it worked for her.”)

The single most annoying question/statement/insult/half-baked thing to say ever. Why is it people automatically presume we haven’t tried X, Y or Z? Do you really think we want to and choose to live this way? Do you really think we don’t hope and pray and pin all our hopes on waking up one day to a miracle cure? We spend our lives searching for answers, for new treatments, for absolutely anything that will help us, but guess what? As of yet, we are still searching. So your X, Y and Z aren’t really on the radar of helpful things to say.

Unless you are in the same situation as me, this really isn’t helpful. Many people in the chronically ill community speak with one another, sharing information and experiences, but talking with like-minded people is much easier than trying to justify and explain ourselves to others that don’t understand.

“You don’t look sick. You can still do things.”

So tell me what a sick person looks like exactly? Would you like me to be in a wheelchair, use crutches or take any other form of what you imagine a sick person to look like, just to satisfy your own misguided belief? Of course I can still do things, so can everyone who has an chronic illness. We all have different levels of ability, but we are all still human beings.  Your perception of “sick” doesn’t help anyone, and it doesn’t help the case that you “believe” that person is chronically ill either.

Some of us may not look sick, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t – I repeat the word invisible. When you are chronically ill, often your best weapon is a mask, a front if you like. This is the mask that everyone will see on a daily basis, the “I’m fine, I’m smiling” mask. But here’s the thing – why not look behind that mask and see the real person? See the person struggling, deep inside, trying desperately to hold it all together so you don’t see the cracks. See the person who just wants you to say…

“I believe you.”

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Thinkstock photo via artant.

Originally published: July 6, 2017
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