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22 Things People With Chronic Illness Don't Admit to Their Healthy Friends

It’s not always easy to talk about your illness with healthy friends. Will friends who don’t know what chronic pain and fatigue feel like understand when you tell them about your latest flare? Will they offer “cures” and advice they’re sure would help, but won’t? Or will they listen with the caring ear you hoped for? When you have an illness that doesn’t “go away,” people don’t always understand, and there’s so much that often goes unsaid.

It’s time for healthy individuals to recognize what’s really going on with their friends living with chronic illnesses and understand how their support (or lack of it) affects their friends. So, we asked our Mighty community to share what they don’t admit to their healthy friends. If you’re reading this because you know someone with a chronic illness, remember this: Even if your chronically ill friend is smiling and “doesn’t look sick,” they may still be dealing with difficult symptoms and feelings. Don’t forget to reach out and show them you still care.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “Please don’t stop inviting me places, even if you know I can’t go. The social isolation hurts more than the pain most of the time.”

2. “I wish people visited more. I wish people would just ask me how I’m feeling every once in awhile. It wouldn’t kill them and would make my days brighter… it would make me feel like I matter when I often feel I don’t.”

3. “I always get frustrated when someone complains on and on about a headache or virus and then I get mad at myself for not being more understanding.”

4. “I’d love for them to learn even just the basics about my illness because it gets frustrating and depressing having to explain so often. It’s not a problem with everyone, and maybe it seems like a bigger deal than it is, but it would only take five minutes to get the basics and would show someone actually cares.”

5. “I regularly feel like a burden, and I desperately want to talk about it but am so fearful of sounding like a broken record. Chronic illness isn’t something I can just push to the back of my mind. It is always present and is painful in more ways than one.”

6. “Sometimes, I’m jealous of you because you don’t have to live with constant pain and severe fatigue. Sometimes I’m jealous because walking is so hard for me and easy for you. Sometimes I’m jealous because you can do activities with your kids and my health keeps me from doing those things with my kids.”

7. “While my disease is not life-threatening, it is life-encompassing. People rally around those with certain illnesses with endless support and encouragement, and often I wish I had just a bit of that. We are the forgotten because we have to keep pushing through day by day until it’s our normal.”

8. “My house is messy because I’m too sick to clean most of the time. That’s why I tend to be a hermit. I wouldn’t want someone to come over when my house looks a mess.”

9. “I try to go to work with a fake smile on my face because it’s easier than breaking down and crying because my body hurts so bad. And when I do call in sick, I feel so horrible to the point I should be going to the ER, yet I don’t. The next day I’m back at work with the same disgusting smile on my face to hide my pain, and everyone thinks I’m faking my illnesses because of the fake smile.”

10. “It has made me more empathetic and understanding because before this I never understood limits. It has made me stronger because I draw on inner resources I never knew I had. It has made me more interested in living every good day to its fullest because you have to fit more into a good day if you know bad days might be ahead. It has made me feel blessed because I have friends who care enough to be there. And it has made me love more because I want to give it all while I have the opportunity.”

11. “I usually feel terrible after, or even while, spending time together. I’m usually so wrecked from using all of my emotional energy that I’m down for at least a day or two after. I never tell my friends that because I don’t want them to get the wrong idea or feel guilty. A couple days of being down is worth it to spend time with them in my opinion.”

12. “I feel guilty I’m not more involved with their lives, that the days can blur together so much that I don’t realize how long it’s been since I talked to them. Luckily, I have very understanding people in my life, but I know not everyone has that.”

13. “I know they have good intentions when they try to relate by saying things like, ‘I’ve had a cold (or some other common, acute illness) so I know how you feel now,’ but it comes off as patronizing and offensive.”

14. “I don’t tell my friends how upsetting and embarrassing it can be constantly requesting that they slow down when walking because I can’t keep up at their pace and fall meters behind them. Or internally struggling because I am forced to keep up as best I can.”

15. “I have so many other problems on top of my autoimmune disease. I constantly worry I will develop a new symptom or a new illness that will take away more of my time and energy.”

16. “While they know my illnesses are bad, I don’t often show just how bad they can get. I don’t think they realize what an effort it is just to get out of bed is. Even if I go downstairs and rest on the sofa, that can still make me exhausted. When I’m able to hang out, that’s me on my absolutely best days.”

17. “I’m still me inside. I’m still fun. I’m still outgoing. It’s just hidden and marred by this invisible illness. Sometimes I go home and cry because I feel like I’m covered in a layer of pain. When I’m with them I smile and act normal because I secretly wish I was. I hope and pray one day it will go away. But secretly I don’t think it ever will. I appreciate all they do for me. And I hope they never leave.”

18. “There is no ‘look’ when it comes to having a chronic illness so stop before you assume. Talk to me as a person. My illnesses is part of who I am but not all of it. Get to know me, not my illness.”

19. “I wish they would still tell me about the problems/excitement in their lives. I don’t instigate conversations because I don’t have much to talk about, but I would love to hear about them!”

20. “Honestly, with my close friends, I don’t hide anything. It’s easier when you tell it all. Keep them aware. They want to know more. They want to help.”

21. “I spend so much time sitting on the couch watching Netflix (I can start and finish a whole show in two days). I go many days without a shower or changing my clothes or sometimes even brushing my teeth.”

22. “When I’m having a bad day, their voices hurt and their touch hurts. Yes, even whispers and kind hugs can make a TMJD migraine worse. I still love my friends, even when they make me flinch.”

22 Things People With Chronic Illness Don't Admit to Their Healthy Friends
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