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19 'Comebacks' to Use When Someone Tells You to 'Just Push Through' Your Symptoms

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One of the aspects of chronic illness that some people seem to have a hard time time understanding is that if you have a job, plans with friends, chores or any other activity people might expect you to do, you can’t simply “push through” your symptoms and participate. Even if you don’t “look” sick or “seemed fine yesterday,” that doesn’t mean your symptoms aren’t a big deal. Exerting energy you don’t really have can lead to even more fatigue and pain the next day, so it can actually be dangerous for you to force yourself to do things — making it frustrating when people urge you to “just push through” anyway.

So when someone does suggest that you push through your illness, what do you say in response? Of course, you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your illness and the choices you make, and if you’re more comfortable simply ignoring the comment or changing the subject, that’s completely OK! But sometimes, you might want to explain why their question is misguided or even hurtful (especially if the comment is coming from someone you interact with regularly), or at least have some sort of response ready to go since it can be hard figuring out what to say in the moment. So we asked our Mighty community to share a “comeback” you could use when someone asks you to “push through” your illness.

Hopefully, these responses can help correct and inform others about the reality of chronic illness and why their question can do more harm than good.

Here’s what our Mighty community shared:

  1. “That’s when I say, ‘I pushed through just to get to this moment.’” — Catherine K.
  2. “My expression says it all. I don’t have to say a word!” — KellyAnn P.
  3. “Every day all day we push through, we crawl, we go beyond our limits for others to feel more comfortable. Should you make me comfortable when you don’t feel well? I thought so. So until you can walk up the stairs in my shoes or socks… keep holding that thought.” — Nicole W.
  4. “I tell them to go wrap themselves in super tight Saran wrap, throw themselves into walls, the floor, furniture ’til they have bruises all over then stay up for 48 hours and then ‘push through.’ Sometimes graphic imagery gets the point across better than anything else.” — AnneMarie G.
  5. “Every day you see me… that’s me pushing through.” — Lisa R.
  6. “I’ve tried [responding] and I end up making things worse… since then I stopped caring what other people think about me taking care of my health. I have several doctors and they all agree I am doing what I need to.” — Katherine M.
  7. “I push through every single day. Today, the block is too big. If I push any harder, I’ll spend a week in the hospital and another month recovering at home… I’d love some home cooked meals for my recovery if you’re volunteering though!” — Sarah R.
  8. “Sure. And be prepared to pick me up off the floor.” — Jennifer C.
  9. “Are you going to carry me to the doctor or ER and pay the medical bill after? ‘Cause then I will. If not, let me decide what I can and cannot do.” — Sarah N.
  10. “I get this comment a lot. I’ve learned to say, ‘I do push through a lot, but there is a point where it is so severe, there is no more strength to push.’” — Sheila W.
  11. “Oh honey, I’ve been pushing through a lot harder than most for the majority of my life, but thanks.” — Rachel F.
  12. “I’ve pushed out two kids. If pushing would work here, I’d manage.” — Gabbie J.
  13. “I’ve just started saying it back to them when they complain about being so sick with a cold, after working out, really any time they complain. They usually get pissed but I just smile and look away.” — Nancy L.
  14. “‘I tried that for years. It left me with permanent muscle damage.’ Or, ‘Pretty sure that my doctors know more about my situation than you do, and they told me not to.’” — Patricia H.
  15. “Every day is pushing through. The days that I can’t, I really can’t. Imagine someone putting hundreds of needles in your leg and back and lighting them on fire, and that is what nerve pain is.” — Ash L.
  16. “I used to run marathons, at my first one I hit the proverbial wall at mile 18. The next eight miles were the slowest most painful miles ever ran, but I accomplished it. Pushing through is like that. Legs made of lead, zero energy to even shuffle, and pain. When you push through with chronic illness there is no finish line, no medal, no accomplishment – all you get is nausea, dizziness, vertigo, tachycardia, bradycardia, headaches, body aches, crushing fatigue, stomach pain and a rash. When you’re willing to run a marathon, I’ll push through.’” — Mary O.
  17. “If I push through, I’m going to be paying for it for days.” — Megan M.
  18. “‘Pushing through it means I’m going to pay for it later.’ ‘Well, you seemed better… ‘ ‘Yes, because I pushed through it, now [I’m] not so good.’” — Christi V.
  19. “Don’t worry… I’m trying.” — Rachel L.
Originally published: June 1, 2018
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