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The 5 Most Frustrating Comments I've Heard About My Chronic Illnesses

The most helpful emails in health
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1. “You are letting your illnesses run your life.”

This is one of the comments that not only frustrates me the most, but that often leads me to feelings of inadequacy and insecurity regarding my ability to thrive despite my conditions. It’s quite difficult not to let chronic conditions infiltrate all aspects of your life. It’s discouraging when you constantly have to be mindful of when and what you eat, when and how long you sleep, weather patterns, stress levels and taking your medication at the same time each day, and symptoms and flares still occur.

Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re going to feel poorly or have a bad day. Managing multiple chronic conditions with different triggers and treatments is not an easy task. There are days when I just physically can’t do certain things. I don’t let my illnesses run my life, but I realize they’re a part of my life, and managing them takes a lot of energy and effort.

2. “You’re not doing anything to help yourself.”

Let’s get a couple things straight: You only know about the things I choose to share with you. And what you can physically see with your eyes and how I feel on the inside are two drastically different things. You don’t see me take the numerous medications and vitamin supplements that have been prescribed by medical professionals to help prevent and treat my conditions. You don’t see me meditating alone in my room in an effort to lower my stress levels or make it through a particularly painful episode. You aren’t with me at every moment, so you couldn’t possibly see my efforts to help myself. You only see what you don’t see. You see when I miss a medical appointment due to symptoms. You see when I don’t go to the gym or exercise because I just don’t have enough energy. Try to stop judging me regarding the things I don’t do and focus on the things I’m constantly doing.

3. “There are people who have it way worse than you.”

I am 100 percent aware of this. This is what keeps my conditions and the unpleasant symptoms that accompany them in perspective for me. I realize there are people who have extremely painful, life-threatening diseases that have drastically detrimental effects on their quality of life. I realize those people may manage to accomplish more in their lives than I am able to in mine. But everyone’s experience with illness is different. Everyone’s brains are wired differently. The expectation that a person should be able to function a certain way in correlation to the severity of their illness(es) is kind of ridiculous. There will always be someone sicker, but that doesn’t invalidate a person’s individual struggles.

4. “I experience XYZ and I still manage to…”

While I’m truly sorry you occasionally get headaches from lack of sleep or a hangover or that you know what it’s like to experience a really bad stomach virus, I do wonder if my experiences with chronic migraines and multiple functional gastrointestinal disorders might be a little different. A concept I really believe in is that you can never truly understand the experiences, mindset and decisions of a person until you “walk a mile in their shoes.” You may think you would do a better job of being me than I would, but please keep those thoughts to yourself. They don’t accomplish anything positive. I do the very best I can at any given moment.

5. “I’ve read that XYZ can help with your condition. You should try that.”

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate your interest and concern for me. But unless you are a medical professional who really understands the intricacies of my conditions, I’d rather you just be a friend. I don’t need any more doctors in my life, but I sure could use some goods friends. I research my conditions and have figured out the best ways to cope for me personally. If you were in my shoes, you may not choose to address everything the same way, but the things that work for me are what work for me. We are all individuals, we all make choices and we are the people we are for good reason.

Sometimes the comments meant to accomplish something positive do the exact opposite. The most helpful things you can offer someone dealing with chronic illness are a compassionate ear, some kind words and a good laugh. A little love and understanding go a long way.

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Originally published: September 21, 2015
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