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10 Things I Want My 'Healthy Friends' to Know About Life With Chronic Illness

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I was diagnosed at 19 years old with idiopathic gastroparesis and severe endometriosis. I was healthy all my life and loved being a social butterfly. However, my chronic illness changed me, some for the good and some for the bad.

I now have a greater appreciation for the little things in life, like being able to get dressed, go out with friends, and even go to work. I work hard to keep a smile on my face and to hide the pain. I also have a greater appreciation for friends. Not just any friends, but the people who truly care. The people who remember how to spell my illness. The people who don’t make me feel guilty because I don’t have energy to go out. The people who came to hospitals to visit me. The people who call me just to check up. The people who realize I would love to go out, if I was healthy. The people who come over when I’m not feeling good, just to be next to me. If you were with me during my good times, why aren’t you here when I need you, during bad times?

“I’m sorry I didn’t invite you, I just assumed you were sick” is I believe the most overused excuse to someone who is chronically ill.

It must be frustrating having your once-good friend now sick, but it is also my life. As a friend, I ask for understanding, empathy and patience. I didn’t chose to have a chronic illness. I never thought in a million years I would wake up one day sick and never get better.

Here are 10 things I would like my “healthy friends” to understand.

1. Please understand that when I cancel a plan, it hurts me, too.

2. Please realize if I have makeup and cute clothes on for a night or take a cute selfie and post it, it doesn’t mean I am healthier. It doesn’t mean they found a cure. It simply means I am feeling good in this moment and I am happy.

3. Please realize I cannot plan things. I would love to; however, chronic illnesses change. One day I’m jumping out of bed and the next I can’t get out of bed because of the pain.

4. Please ask anything about my illness before gossiping about it to another person.

5. Please know when you say I look “healthier,” I am hiding my illnesses to make every one else comfortable.

6. Please know that I don’t discuss my health issues for pity or attention.

7. Please don’t suggest any medicine or herbal remedy that your uncle’s cousin’s nephew knows that cured his disease.

8. Please don’t say how easy my life is or how I don’t have a job. I work hard at surviving because it is a 24-hour job.

9. Please ask me to go out. Even if I can’t go, I still would like to be included. Please keep asking.

10. Please try to understand that I get advice from everyone, everywhere. So at the end of the day, please try to understand that I appreciate your concern, but I would like you to just be my friend.

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Originally published: April 26, 2016
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