The Mighty Logo

Why I Won't Apologize for Being 'Chronically Unreliable'

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

The word “unreliable” has become an insult — in a world of social media and smart phones, everyone should be available 24/7. And this is heightened on a university campus, when most events are spontaneous or last-minute. But this causes issues, especially for those who, like me, live with a chronic illness.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

Last week I had a bad flare-up, and on Wednesday I had three plans I had to cancel last minute. I know what you’re thinking: “If you knew you were in a flare-up, you could have cancelled the day before. You didn’t have to leave it until that morning.” Which is right. I could have cancelled everything the day before. But then what would happen if I woke up on Wednesday morning and felt well enough to go? It’s hard to “un-cancel.”

What many don’t understand is that my condition varies every single day.

Some days I can go to a full day of classes and then go out with friends in the evening. Some days I can barely get out of bed. And as the number of bad days is increasing, it’s become even more important that I don’t cancel plans until the very last minute.

For a while, I did the opposite. I assumed that I wouldn’t be well enough to attend events, so I didn’t plan to. I knew that if I had to cancel at the last minute, I would feel incapable and my friends would be annoyed. So I did very little and became isolated.

Then I realized an important truth: the people who know and love me will understand that I’m unreliable.

I will not see being “unreliable” as an insult anymore. I am unreliable because of my chronic illness, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, not because of my disregard for other people.

I am unreliable because my body is more unreliable than the average person’s, and I cannot apologize for that.

My condition varies every day and because of that, I will never be a reliable person for as long as I am sick. And that is OK.

Originally published: March 20, 2019
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home