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18 'Harmless' Comments That Actually Hurt People With Chronic Pain

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If you live with chronic pain, you may be familiar with some of the “harmless” comments people say to those who are struggling. Oftentimes these remarks from family and friends are well-intentioned, but a lack of understanding about your pain and how it affects you may result in their statement totally missing the mark.

We wanted to know what “harmless” comments people with chronic pain have heard that actually hurt them, so we asked our Mighty community to share one with us and explain what it feels like to hear it.

It’s important to remember that even well-intended comments can be hurtful and damaging. Regardless of what anyone says, your experiences with chronic pain are valid, and you deserve of understanding and support.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. “It’s always something with you!”

“‘It’s always something with you!’ I know in my heart the intentions of this comment were not malicious. But I don’t hear it as ‘I’m sorry you’re always hurting.’ I hear, ‘Your pain is a burden to me and I’m sick of hearing about what’s wrong with you this time.’” – Kathryn W.

2. “But you look fine.”

“‘But you look fine, it can’t be that bad.’ Yeah, because you can’t see the pain I’m going through, the struggle I have to do the easiest of tasks. You can’t see the thoughts that are running around inside my head. What you see is me trying my best with a fake smile upon my face. That does not mean the pain I’m going through isn’t [debilitating] and having a huge impact on my life. It’s harmless to some but to me it’s like I’m not being believed and made out to be making it seem more than what it is. It’s hurtful.” – Ciara O.

Yesterday with my husband in the ER, I had said something about my diagnoses and the paramedic said, ‘Oh but you look so normal.’ Well, thanks.” – Abby W.

3. “Just wait until you’re my age.”

“‘Just wait until you’re my age.’ Just because I’m young doesn’t make my pain and fatigue not as bad as it is.” – Holly D.

“‘You’re too young to have back pain.’ / ‘I’ll let you do that because you’re young and fit.’ / ‘You wait until you’re my age.’” – Liselle F.

4. “You just need to be more positive.”

“‘You just need to be more positive, then you will feel better!’ Probably one of the lines that irritate me the most and I hear it constantly.” – Bianca P.M.

5. “You only hurt because you take pain medication.”

“‘You just need to get off those meds, then you won’t hurt so bad. You only hurt because you take those pain meds.’ Said by people with no medical expertise who don’t back down when I let them know I went six months without meds to be sure of exactly that, being that I’m undiagnosed.” – Amanda P.

“[People say] it’s my medications making me feel worse and if I stopped taking so many different prescription medications I’d feel better.” – Lauren D.

6. “You’re so lucky to be that thin!”

After losing too much weight from being incredibly ill: ‘OMG! You look amazing this way!’ Or the ‘I wish that would happen to me. You’re so lucky to be that thin!’ I was perfectly confident with my thick self prior to being ill. Umm, thanks…I guess?” – Tawnee T.

7. “It can’t be that bad.”

“‘Well, it can’t hurt that bad since you still work full-time…’” – Melanie C.

8. “You should _____ since you have nothing else to do.”

I am unable to work outside of my home because of my chronic pain/illness. I was told that maybe I should take up video games as a hobby because I ‘have nothing else to do.’ I run my own small business and am taking online classes… Just because I’m home doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. My life just looks different because I’m sick. It was a small comment but it really stung. I felt like I was being called lazy.” – Laura F.

9. “At least it’s not _____.”

“‘At least it’s not *insert other illness.*’” – Sarah B.

10. “I’ll hold your service dog while you go inside.”

“‘I’ll hold your assistance dog while you go in if you want.’ If a place isn’t suitable for me to go in with my dog, it’s definitely not suitable for me to go in without him! People just don’t understand that I have my dog beside me because I need him, not just because I don’t want to leave him at home.” – Suzanne H.

11. “If you just tried _____, I’m sure it would cure your pain!”

“‘Turmeric, diet, etc. will cure you.’” – Tierra N.

12. “I wish you wouldn’t let your pain affect you so much.”

“‘I wish you wouldn’t let it [pain and diagnosis] affect you so much.’ How can I not? Whether I like it or not it affects everything I do now, physically and mentally, for the rest of my life. But the funny thing is this was said to me when I was at the most emotionally stable point since being diagnosed… yet the worst physically. It goes to show how clueless the people closest to you can be.” – Alane P. 

13. “I wish I could just sit at home all day…”

“‘She’s like a kid, never had to grow up and be responsible… Wish I could just sit at home all day and have everyone handle things.’” – Britt B.

14. “It’s all in your head.”

I was told that ‘it was all in my head’ by multiple ER staff members. I had extreme weakness and pain in my legs that caused me to be in a wheelchair. I was later diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton syndrome and neuropathy.” – Samantha S.

15. “You’re so lucky to have a wheelchair – I have to walk everywhere!”

“‘You’re so lucky having a wheelchair, I have to walk everywhere.’ The sort of remark that stays with you. Every time you long to get up and dance it drags you back down to reality.” – Jill C.

16. “It’s just growing pains.”

“‘It’s just growing pains. Stop exaggerating.’ When I was in elementary school.” – Vanessa B.

17. “If it were me, I’d just get used to it.”

My dad: ‘I think if it were me I would just get used to it. I don’t like pain meds.’ This is after my multiple failed hip surgeries and five years of chronic pain.” – Natalie D.

18. “You’re just lazy.”

I’m unable to work due to my pain and can’t do ‘normal’ things people my age are doing and I am constantly getting comments from my family such as ‘If you stopped being so lazy and got a job and started going out with friends you’d feel better.’” – Lauren D.

They say [I’m] lazy, but I am just thankful to be alive.” – Billy G.

Originally published: March 7, 2018
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