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What You Should Know Before Calling Me 'Brave,' 'Strong' or 'Inspirational' for Being Sick

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Inspirational, brave, strong…

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These are words many people use to describe those who are sick. They say how brave you are. Some say, “You are the strongest person I know.” But you should know some things about me before using these words.

1. I am not brave.

I am scared. I spend so much time pretending everything is OK, when the truth is, I live in fear that the small amount of stability I have will fall out from under me. I am constantly afraid of losing my abilities to do the things I love. I am not brave.

2. I am not strong.

During my worst weeks, on my worst days, I hide. I do not leave my house or get out of bed more than necessary. I don’t do this out of laziness, I do this because I don’t want the people I love to see me on the really bad days. I do not want to face them when I cannot meet their expectations. I am not strong.

3. I am not inspirational.

I don’t get up every day and sing thanks for my illnesses. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t ever wished they would all go away. Honestly, I get up most mornings and wonder how I’m going to make it to the end of the day. I ignore, “How are you?” texts because no one really wants the truth. I cancel plans then cry because I really wanted to go. I am not inspirational.

4. I am trying.

I am struggling. It is a struggle just to get out of bed. I am tired. Tired is an understatement. I’m exhausted. I can’t sleep. Even when I do sleep, I’m still tired, but every day, I get up. I take my medicine. I drink plenty of water. I do my school work. On good days, I try to see friends, go to church, just get out of the house… While all of these things seem small to a healthy person, they mean something to me. They mean  I am trying.

So, don’t call me inspirational, brave or strong. Most days I don’t feel like I can be any of those things. Remind me instead to keep trying. Encourage me to keep doing what I feel capable of. Tell me you want to be there even on the bad days when I push you away. Maybe one day I will be brave, or strong, or inspirational, but today I am just trying. I am just trying to get through the day, and that is enough.

Thinkstock photo via antondotsenko.

Originally published: November 16, 2017
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