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3 False Labels I've Been Assigned Because of My Chronic Illness

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Everyday terms are used to describe someone’s personality or characteristics, yet when it comes to chronic pain, chronic illness, or mental health, these terms can have much more of an impact. It also goes much deeper than a late night or not enough coffee. It can be all too easy for outsiders to assign terms that actually reflect an illness, and not the actual person.

Here are three key terms that are often used to describe me. While they may be said lightheartedly and I don’t take offense, I think it’s important to highlight some of the reasons that see these terms stick with those battling an illness of any kind.

1. Lateness. I don’t want to be late. In fact, I hate being late. Yes I may have slept in, but only because it took me two hours to get comfortable and even then, I woke up an hour later riddled with pain. Yes, I may have been up early enough to get ready. I was late because it took me 20 minutes to put my jeans on because I couldn’t reach my feet or bend my knees. Yes, I may have already been dressed, but my heart rate was increasing as were the shakes – and I’m wise enough to know that in such a state I shouldn’t drive.

2. Tired. Yes, I am always tired. Not because I stay up late on social media, not because I haven’t had enough coffee, but because part of a chronic illness and chronic pain. This means that my body is attacking itself all the time. It’s like having the flu 24/7, even in summer. On top of the pain and the inability to rest because of it, the medication, all the side effects, and the impact of it all on my mental health, can you blame me for being tired?

3. Moody. This is an interesting one, there are the jokes about being a female, being stressed, not having had enough coffee, or being too sensitive. Being moody is a partial combination of all of the above, but what people often don’t ask or bring up when my mood changes is the struggles or illnesses I face. No one asks if I’m short tempered or feisty all of a sudden because my pain has become much more intense. No one asks if I’m all of a sudden anxious or having a low bout with depression. No one asks if I need anything. No one asks if it’s the medication, or if I’m in a triggering situation and can’t work out how to get out. No one asks if my brain is in over drive, or underdrive. And no one asks for me to tell them what’s going on or what can be done. Everyone just sees it as “moody.”

So, the next time you say someone is, “always late, tired, or always moody,” may I suggest thinking about, or even asking the reasons why?

You can separate the illness from the person, because without the underlying struggles they face, they may not always be late, tired, or moody. As an outsider you just never know.

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Thinkstock Image By: diego_cervo

Originally published: April 22, 2017
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