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If People Are Trying to Invalidate Your Illness

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Living with a chronic illness is challenging enough without others challenging your condition.

Invalidation is never OK. I remember being undiagnosed sitting in my doctors office, listening to him tell me that all my symptoms could be just stress. I remember feeling like I wasn’t being taken seriously. My doctor didn’t believe that there was a real problem, but I did.

I remember finally getting a diagnosis. I felt like I was finally going to be taken seriously. All of my symptoms were validated by my diagnosis.

I was not prepared for the waves of invalidation that were yet to come. Sometimes it’s the people closest to you who hurt you the most.

It’s incredibly isolating when your closest friends don’t support you. There’s an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and frustration. Since my diagnosis, I have lost friends. Unfortunately this is common for those who are chronically ill.

I remember explaining my diagnosis to a friend. I will never forget how she responded. “You’re not the only one with problems,” she said.

Sometimes the least empathetic people in your life are the people you can relate to the most. I had a friend who coincidentally shared my diagnosis. I was subject to her constant questioning and doubts. She would compare her situation to mine, and invalidated my struggle because of her own. “I’ve had this for way longer than you, I’m an expert,” she said.

I think it’s fair to say that many of us with chronic illnesses have become accustomed to invalidating comments from many different people in our lives, and are often left feeling betrayed.

I’m sure many of us have been told, “You don’t look sick.” This comment may seem harmless, but it is invalidating to say the least. Just because an illness isn’t visible, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Sometimes people are blissfully unaware of how hurtful their comments can be. Invalidation can be unintentional. For that reason, it is important to make people aware of how their comments can make you feel.

Sometimes no matter what you say, some people won’t understand. If you’ve explained to someone how they’ve hurt you, yet they continue to do it, make sure to distance yourself from that person.

I know how difficult it can be to distance yourself from someone close to you, but it’s important to keep moving forward. When people invalidate you, it is toxic for your health. We need to surround ourselves with people who support us.

You shouldn’t have to justify your illness to anyone.

It’s time to find our voice. We need to make a stand. Invalidation is never OK, so don’t accept it from anyone.

We are living a life in spite of chronic illness. We are strong. If we can get through this, we can get through anything.

We are here, and we are mighty.

Originally published: August 15, 2018
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