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When Friends Think I'm 'Milking' My Chronic Illness

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You are invited to a party. You feel rubbish but decide to say yes. The thought of socialization when you feel like absolute dirt, mentally, physically and emotionally, scares you, but you want something to look forward to. The diagnosis of an underactive thyroid and its many, many symptoms has gotten you down. Spending some time with friends, relaxing and having a laugh sounds like a good idea, though. It’ll take your mind off it for a bit, and you’ll feel like you’re taking back some of the control hypothyroidism has stolen from you by making the decision to go.

But then the day comes and you feel really unwell. You’re gutted. Your thyroid has decided to punish you for even thinking you could go out and enjoy yourself. – OK, maybe not exactly, but you end up having to pull out of the social event because you’re just not up to it. You’re absolutely exhausted, you can barely stand and you feel like you have the worst flu ever. There’s no way going would be a good idea.

Your friends may say it to your face, or not, but they think you’re a let-down. They think you’re lazy, not making the effort and a cop-out.

They’re so wrong. You feel bad for pulling out. You do not need to justify yourself. This is not your fault. They likely have no idea what you’re going through. You didn’t ask for this horrid, devastating, life-changing disease.

You shouldn’t feel sorry. So don’t. 

Your friends and those around you should be understanding. I’ve experienced it myself, and it’s so heartbreakingly frustrating. The people who should understand and feel for you, dismiss what you’re going through. It’s as if they have no idea. Well, they likely don’t, or they don’t actually care that much at all.

I hardly ever cancel on people. I’ve had people do it to me, and it’s frustrating, so when I do do it, I really am very ill indeed. I’ve learned since having an underactive thyroid and adrenal fatigue that I must put myself and my health first. I can’t afford to get that ill again or begin on that slippery slope. And real friends would recognize and respect this. They’d want the best for you and care about you.

But at times, I’ve felt like people think I milk being hypothyroid and having adrenal fatigue. They don’t understand the full extent of just what it’s like to live with. It can be unpredictable. We might feel well one day and then be struck down the next. Think we’re being over-dramatic if you will, but we may even feel like we’re dying on bad days. We may feel quite well when we first agree to the plans, and then a few days before, or on the day itself, we become really unwell. Mentally, physically, emotionally… going would make us more unwell. People who don’t live with our health conditions have no idea and should not judge. If we have to pull out, we shouldn’t feel bad about it. If someone else had to pull out because they had a sickness bug, or a diarrhea bug or the flu, then people might be more understanding. I live with flu symptoms every day of my life, and yet, I’m put down for needing some “me” time. I have nothing to apologize for. I have nothing to feel bad for. I have a lifelong, chronic health condition that is unpredictable and difficult to manage. I did nothing to cause this, and I’m already handling this the best I can.

A good friend would understand that. They’d understand your struggles or at least sympathize.

To those who think we’re cop-outs, lazy or just not making the effort, the next time you think this, please realize that when this is our life, we have no real control and we are not to blame. Imagine yourself in our shoes.

This post originally appeared on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.

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Thinkstock photo by Digital Vision.

Originally published: December 12, 2016
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