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17 Things People With Chronic Illness Wish Their Coworkers Knew

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Simply managing daily life with a chronic illness can feel like a full-time job — there’s a reason the term “professional patient” has grown popular. Add full- or part-time work on top of that, and life can get even more challenging.

Unfortunately, people may not fully grasp how difficult it is for their coworkers to come to work and complete their responsibilities while juggling pain, fatigue, doctor’s appointments and medications. So we asked our Mighty community what they wish their coworkers knew about their lives — hopefully encouraging anyone who has a chronically ill coworker to show more understanding and less judgment.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “[I wish they knew] how very much it hurts me just to be there. I wish they would also be more patient with me, when I need to take some time off. I’m not slacking, I’m recovering.”

2. “I wish they would see that I’m not asking anyone to pick up my slack, but a little compassion would go a long way.”

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3. “When I miss work, not only is it none of their business, but I would appreciate the snide comments be kept to themselves.”

4. “Although my body feels like it has already worked a full day by the time I start at 7 a.m., I always come in with a smile. I ask that you take a second to return the smile instead of passing judgment and discriminating.” 

5. “I just wish I had coworkers. That would mean I was lucky enough to have a job. I have been on disability for almost four years, and it really sucks! I lost my career due to my illnesses, and my master’s degree is going to waste. It is frustrating and can be humiliating at times.”

6. “When I say ‘I hurt too much to work a double shift today’ I’m not being selfish and/or using my rheumatoid arthritis as an excuse to get out of work. If I was physically able to, I would. I am not a wimp.”

7. “I wish my coworkers knew and understood the things I do to take care of myself are not optional. Poking my fingers, taking insulin and eating snacks all day can be a small inconvenience, but I try to do it quickly and discreetly without much disruption. If I skip doing these few small actions, things could quickly turn bad and they will be the ones to have to call 911.” 

8. “I’m disabled due to chronic illnesses and haven’t been able to work since 2007. I would tell coworkers I’m sorry they had to pick up my job responsibilities while I was sick and that I was grateful for all the support I received during my last year at the office. And that I miss both the job and my former co-workers very much.”

9. “I sleep fully dressed for work the next day, just so I might have the energy to get to work and make it through the day.”

10. “I would trade the constant pain, anxiety and depression to be able to happily work 50 hours again. The guilt from missing work increases stress, which increases pain. I miss working all the time. I sit and cry every time I have to call in [sick]. I fear being fired every time I do make it in. I do not wish any of this on anyone.” 

11. “I would like to go back in time to tell my past coworkers the real reason I missed so much work… I have fibromyalgia, lupus and chronic fatigue syndrome, and I never told a soul. Not even my boss.”

12. “I’m not lazy, unmotivated or unwilling, I’m sick.”

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13. “Not every day is the same for me. If I’m sick Monday and well Tuesday, that doesn’t mean I wanted a long weekend. That week, Monday was my bad day. I wish there was more flexibility — working part time helps, but my body isn’t reliable so I can’t rely on it to be in a good day every Wednesday each week.”

14. “When I make a mistake, it’s usually the illness causing it. I am on top of things as best as I can be so please be patient with me when my best isn’t good enough.” 

15. “My entire day revolves around conserving my energy to be here for four hours.” 

16. “I get sick of hearing myself say ‘I’m not feeling too good,’ so I keep it to myself. I will say I had a good weekend when in fact I didn’t because as usual at some point I was crying in pain. I will put on a happy face when inside I feel like I’m at rockbottom, just so you all don’t get sick of hearing me moan. If I say I can’t do something it’s because I can’t do it, not because I’m a shirker or a slacker. Trust me, there is nothing more crushing to me than feeling like I am letting the team down.” 

17. “I know I talk about my illness a lot, but it’s because it is constantly on my mind because it it such a huge part of my life. I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m just trying to verbalize the thoughts that are always there and hopefully help them understand my situation a little better.”

What do you wish your coworkers knew about your life with chronic illness? Let us know in the comments.

Originally published: May 25, 2016
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