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When People Tell Me I'm Too Young to Have a Chronic Illness

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Chronic illness. It’s a term that sounds scary and dramatic to some.

A chronic illness is a condition or disease that is long-lasting and usually lifelong, which includes hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Having chronic illnesses, I often refer to myself as a spoonie: someone with a limited amount of energy.

When people ask me what a spoonie is, I explain that I have a limited amount of energy that affects my day-to-day life, so much so that I have to plan my use of energy wisely. I often receive a nod of recognition at my explanation, but I have also been told, “You’re too young to have a chronic health condition!” or, “You won’t be really ill for years.”

Erm.  I do have a chronic illness. Two, actually. And I have been really ill.

What does age have to do with it? Does my body care if I’m 20 or 80? Nope, not really!

I was diagnosed with autoimmune hypothyroidism at 21 years old, after a five-year battle with doctors, going back and forth with more and more unexplained symptoms, until I eventually crashed and they finally thought to test my thyroid. I’d been having symptoms since I was 16.

When a person says something like, “You’re too young to have a chronic health condition,” it really hurts and I feel disbelieved. I feel belittled. It’s as if they’re saying I’m lying, or it can’t be as bad as it really is. And they have no idea how bad it can be. How do you know how much I’ve gone through?

I tell myself that most people don’t mean for their comments to come across as hurtful or insensitive, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Thinking about the future and when I will be 80 years old, the idea scares me. I’ve been really ill at 20 years old, so what could I be like when I’m a pensioner?

Could my condition progress? Probably. Will I develop other linked conditions? It’s possible. Will those around me know how to medicate me when I’m no longer ‘with it’ enough to ensure I receive adequate treatment that I’ve fought for? It worries me to think about.

I even worry that I will be too ill to enjoy or see much when I retire. It’s crossed my mind to retire earlier, but really, it’s too far away to predict or plan.

You may think I’m over-thinking all of this in so much detail, but when you’ve been chronically ill at a young age, it’s scary to think about life at an older age and all the conditions people develop as the years progress — on top of what us spoonies are already battling.

No one is guaranteed a long or healthy life. Illness does not discriminate based on age. Don’t be so dismissive.

Follow this journey on The Invisible Hypothyroidism.

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Originally published: February 10, 2017
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