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19 Things People With Chronic Illnesses Do That Seem 'Lazy,' but Aren't

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While you know the things you do to reduce pain and save energy are necessary accommodations that make your life easier, outsiders may watch you and not understand why these habits and behaviors are so crucial. What may look like “laziness” to them may actually help you accomplish chores or give your body time to recover from (or get ready for) exhausting outings. And when your illness is invisible (as so many chronic illnesses are), you might find yourself on the receiving end of even more judgment. It’s frustrating when people don’t understand why you’re doing something that makes your life with chronic illness easier and react with questions and accusations rather than acceptance.

So, we asked our Mighty community to share things they do that others might think are lazy — but actually aren’t. Hopefully we can teach people that even if someone doesn’t “look sick,” that doesn’t mean they aren’t, and that doesn’t mean they’re being “lazy” when certain things are difficult for them. There’s a reason and story behind everything a chronic warrior does, and a little compassion goes a long way.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Difficulty Keeping Up With Personal Hygiene

“I don’t shower as much as people think I should. I’m not lazy. It’s honestly exhausting standing in the shower, washing my hair. I’m not unclean. I take care of my hygiene. I just don’t shower a lot.” — Megan D.

“I gave up doing my hair and makeup. Don’t have enough energy. I’m sure people think I’m just lazy and not trying. But they are wrong.” — Cheryl A.

2. Parking in the Accessible Spot

“I park in the accessible spot and use a motorized shopping cart. I don’t look like I need it, but I do. Walking the grocery store leaves me in so much pain that I can’t think. I can’t even shop because I’m so distracted by pain and fatigue.” —  Sarah A.

3. Spending All Day in Bed

“Spending all day in bed, every day, for months on end. When a bad flare happens, it’s all I can do. It’s easy to think it would be nice until you actually have to experience it. Your body deteriorates, you experience more pain from sitting and lying in the same positions long-term, getting up for simple things like the bathroom is a big decision, you become more sensitive to light and noise from being holed up in the dark, and the boredom…! You watch the world go by, your friends and family living their lives, while you can barely stand. I love my bed, but I absolutely hate when I get stuck there.” — Ella R.

“Rarely getting out of bed. If I find a fairly comfortable position in bed, I will stay as long as possible knowing that as soon as I get up, all hell breaks loose. I have been told to just get off my ass and I will be fine…” — Barbara L.

4. Sitting Down Often

I sit down a lot. If I’m waiting in line and see a bench or even something that is sturdy I will sit down. People will give me looks and say stuff like, ‘You should not be sitting with how you are,’ but I don’t care. When I need to sit I sit, even if it is on the ground.” — Victoria M.

I work at a small retail store. I sit in a comfy chair that I only get up from if a customer needs help or to check out. As a 30-year-old woman, the older clients have commented that I am rude or lazy because all I do is sit. I am diagnosed with dysautonomia, Arnold-Chiari malformation and Lambert-Eaton so getting up and down from a chair is not easy. Thankfully my wonderful boss has no problems with allowing me to remain seated.” — Samantha S.

5. Laying on the Table at the Doctor’s Office

“When I go to the doctor’s office, I lay on the bed/table almost immediately and do so until he/she walks in. I had one doctor comment (with so much sarcasm), ‘Wow, you must be pretty comfortable.’ But when you’re a spoonie, you don’t care; what matters is making yourself comfortable.” — Michelle D.

6. Always Taking the Elevator

“I avoid stairs at all costs. Even if an appointment is just one flight up, I take the elevator. Stairs wear me down faster than any other exercise. If I took the stairs, I wouldn’t be able to do anything else that day, but rest.” – Amanda W.

“Using the elevator. I look like a ‘normal’ 38-year-old woman, and I hate the judgmental looks I get when I use the elevator. Even though I only use it on days I absolutely have to, I hate the judgment.” — Cheri M.

7. Not Cleaning the House

“I don’t keep a spotless house anymore. It’s physically impossible for me to do it at this point. I’m in far too much pain and trying to raise a family and trying to keep my house immaculate just leads to stress and flares. The judgment hurts, though.” — Heather M.

“Getting my 9- and 11-year-old to help with cleaning — dishes, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom. It’s all the things we were expected to do when we were kids, and makes such a big difference in keeping on top of the house. I don’t touch their rooms either, that’s their responsibility. I’m raising fierce, independent young women. I see it as a positive.” — JoJo R.

8. Using Mobility Devices

“Use my rollator. I have POTS and a brain tumor that causes hemiparesis and seizures. My balance and coordination are very off and I’m hypotensive and dizzy often. Yes, I’m 30 and unfortunately not who people think need to use assistive devices and they think I lug it all around for fun I guess, but I have to have them. I’m exhausted from short trips alone and being able to sit quickly helps tremendously.” — Sophie V.

9. Difficulty Completing Tasks

I often have trouble completing tasks because I’m too tired or I fall asleep. I have narcolepsy with cataplexy and Kleine-Levin (‘Sleeping Beauty’) syndrome. People think I’m lazy or I don’t care or I’m a flake. None of that is true. I can’t stay awake!” — Lisa G.

“Doing things halfway. Like doing laundry but not folding or start cleaning and not finish, I sometimes do this at work, too. I don’t mean to seem lazy or uninterested. I either get distracted and forget or I have a shut-down.” — Tammy J.

10. Sleeping a Lot

I have to sleep at least 10 hours a night before I can be at top functionality during the day. People think I’m lazy or depressed, but it’s actually my chronic fatigue and other conditions. My body has to work three times as hard as someone without a chronic illness’s, so it only makes sense that I’d be tired all the time.” — Kylie T.

“Nap for at least three hours at a time. The fatigue is just so bad. I barely feel like a human.” — Sarah B.

11. Driving Short Distances

“During a recent vacation, I used Uber for outings which would be an easy walk for most people. I knew that, if I wanted to enjoy whatever I had planned, I had to conserve my energy and avoid unnecessary walking. Even while accompanied by my cane, most drivers scoffed at the short distance I was requesting. I became fairly self-conscious but know that it was necessary. Even still, it took a week to recover from the exhaustion of traveling.” — Sara L.

“Getting the bus, everywhere, even if it’s a few stops. Due to my interstitial lung disease and systemic lupus it’s difficult for me to walk far so I rely on the local bus services to get me about. I’ve learned to embrace the bus journeys now and enjoy the views and meeting people.” — Janey G.

12. Buying Pre-Cut Fruit and Vegetables

“Buying pre-prepped veggies or prepping all my veggies for the week on one day. If I’m going to eat healthy I need some level of preparedness already handled before I get home after a long day. Meal prepping has saved my life.” — Tyler S.

“Buy ready prepared vegetables and frozen veg. Saves my energy for cooking and eating.” — Sarah S.

13. Not Having a Job

“Not working while taking care of my son. It seems like a normal thing while your kid isn’t in kindergarten to stay at home, right? Well, everyone just tells me I have to work and give the child to family members. Also, I can’t do every job because things that involve standing or walking all day are over my limits.” — Tamara R.

“Not working. People see me and think I am fine; they don’t see me curled up crying out in pain, sleepless nights, a lot of trips to the bathroom, crying in frustration at my body failing me, ‘sleeping in’ until 10 after I went to bed early. I require a lot of accommodations because of these issues and employers want someone who is reliable.” — Justine N.

14. Using the Electric Cart at the Grocery Store

“When I go shopping I use an electric cart. I’m relatively young (47) so I get a lot of people staring at me and some people are very nasty to me. I’ve had my electric cart kicked and rammed into by a shopping cart. I’ve had people scream at me to get out of their way and I’ve even had people tell me that ‘people like me’ shouldn’t shop when ‘normal’ people are shopping. I’ve learned to just ignore people and do what’s right for me.” — Nikki S.

“Riding the electric cart at the grocery store after walking in.” — Amanda P.

15. Taking Baths

I sit down a lot in the shower (don’t have a chair) or take baths and people think I’m bougie or lazy as heck, but really my blood pressure creeps up in the shower and sometimes makes me pass out. That plus nausea, vertigo and painful joints from hypermobility makes standing up in the shower a chore that just isn’t worth doing. The worst is I sometimes can’t even take baths either because of chronic UTIs/yeast infections.” — Anna S.

16. Buying Groceries Online

“Order my groceries online and use a drive-thru to pick them up, where they load them into my vehicle for me. I need to do it because I can’t make it through the grocery store pushing a cart anymore.” — Alison C.

“[I] have started ordering in groceries; I used to look forward to grocery day.” — Deborah C.

17. Having a Hard Time Getting Up Early

“Make it to church at 9 in the morning. Because of my adrenal insufficiency/ fatigue getting up before 9 is such a struggle, almost physically impossible. I don’t have work until noon so that’s just where my sleep schedule is at right now and it’s very hard to change it. So, 9 is just too early. It seems I can only get up early if I’m really excited or really anxious about the next day’s activities, like if I’m on vacation or if I have an exam, something like that because adrenaline kicks in.” — Kirstie B.

“I’m often a few minutes late to work, but it’s because it’s very difficult for me to physically wake up and pull myself out thanks to brain fog, pain and fatigue. If I don’t set multiple alarms, I will sometimes fall asleep as I am trying to climb out of bed. It takes half an hour at least of trying. If you want me to be presentable, I may miss the train.” — Lilka M.

18. Binge-Watching TV

Binge-watching TV on one of my off-days. I’m actually not really paying attention to the TV but rather need sound as I’m trying to restore my energy and be able to continue working two jobs and have several chronic pain conditions. I’m not being lazy, I’m recuperating.” — Chrystian B.

19. Not Standing Up to Meet Someone

“I don’t always stand up when greeting a person. I’d much rather sit for as long as I can, plus I’m leashed to my service dog. So getting up, if I need to, takes a minute.” — Courtney M.

Originally published: March 16, 2018
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