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When a Family Member Criticized the Choices I Made Due to My Illness

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Every part of me wants to remain calm and levelheaded, every part of me wants to stop fuming right now (can you feel the heat emanating from your computer screen as you read this?), and every part of me wants to find peace and understanding in this situation. But right now, I just can’t. After 10 years of being sick, after three relapses, after more doctors appointments and prescription medications and alternative therapies than I can even recall, I can’t even begin to describe what this feels like…

Just a few weeks ago, I started my online college career. Of course, this was never meant to be the plan. I was supposed to physically go to college, live on (or near) campus, do the thing kids my age are “supposed” to do. Hell, I “should’ve” already graduated from college! So, just now, after hanging up the phone from a call with a family member, I was (almost) at a loss for words…

To you, this undisclosed family member of mine, if you even knew the reluctance I had to the online college experience in the first place, when my mama told me I should look into it long ago (side note: friends, a mama does tend to know what’s best), you wouldn’t have said anything. It took a long time for me to accept the fact that this was the best option for me. You would not have told me how obtaining my degree online would prohibit me from socializing and “saying hi to people” or sitting in class or doing that whole college thing I mentioned above. But guess what? I did do all of that already (at two colleges on opposite coasts, in fact!). And guess what? I hadn’t planned on even going back to school until 2017, so I was damn proud of myself for feeling good enough to start earlier than anticipated, despite getting new diagnoses and new medications these past few months. And guess what a third time? I learned that I physically can’t do it anymore. My health does not allow to me operate in that “normal” college way. And every day I have to rise above and honor that fact, because every single day, in some aspect, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that I am sick. And that I can’t do it all and be it all — I have to get creative in accomplishing the things I wish to accomplish.

Then there’s this part of me that is frustrated with myself for even writing this — your  one-track way of thinking don’t even deserve the energy and brainpower I’m giving you right now. Why does this affect me so much? During our “chat,” you shouldn’t have waited until the very end of our conversation, long after I told you that you were being mean, to say, “Well, if you’re happy, then I’m happy.” No. Just, no. You’re not always right, you don’t know my struggle. You cannot offend me and then close with that statement — hell, a statement that is a totally backhanded affirmation at that!

So, friends, with that lively rant out of the way, and with my head a little less congested with negativity, I guess the lesson to take away today is encouragement, acknowledgment and love.

To my friends and my family members who accept where I am, who support me and uplift me, who remind me that I am doing the thing, despite my hurdles: thank you. Thank you more times than the greatest number that even exists. There is nothing better than feeling your love — for me, it really is the most wonderful, inspiring medicine in existence.

And to those of you who don’t have the words (undisclosed family member, I’m talking to you)? I am here to tell you that asking questions is a beautiful thing. If you don’t know, get educated; if you’re confused; seek until you find; if you’re lost, there is someone willing and able to guide you! In its own way, asking a question shows your support. It shows that you’re committed to understanding and embodying something you previously could not comprehend. It shows that you care. And let’s be honest, the world could use a whole lot more of that good lovin’ all around.

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Originally published: October 31, 2016
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