Please Don't Say This to a Person Dealing With a Chronic Illness
I am a laid-back and easygoing person, so the number of things that make me truly mad
is small. Nevertheless, there are certain things I believe should never be said to me or any individual dealing with a chronic illness.
“But there are people who have it worse than you.”
“At least it’s not disease X, Y or Z.”
“You should be more thankful.”
“At least it is not immediately life-threatening.”
“Have you tried this treatment?”
Every time I hear comments such as the ones above, every muscle in my body clenches in pure anger. Some are well-intentioned, but others are seriously misguided. Illness is not a contest, and comparing illnesses isn’t fair or right, especially because everyone is different. Everyone has different symptoms. Everyone presents differently, and everyone has a different pain tolerance. Many things in life are subjective, and some parts of illness are no different.
Illness, no matter how serious, is a challenging part of living life for anyone. Take it from me, a veteran of 24 hospital admissions in less than three years and countless trips to the operating room, and a daily micromanager of my illnesses.
Each day is carefully planned starting when I open my eyes. Before I even move, I have to do a full-body “systems check” to see how I am doing and how much I’ll be able to do that day. If I overdo it, I will be paying for it for days, and if I don’t do enough, I end up being stressed from feeling behind.
How I feel today is not going to determine how I feel tomorrow or next week. I know this can be a difficult concept for the average person to understand.
Just because someone else’s symptoms may not be as severe as my own, doesn’t mean I’m going to treat them any less. In fact, I would prefer to capitalize on the similarities between our illnesses, create a new friendship and find unique ways to support one another. One simple text, letter or Facebook message can go a long way when someone is having a rough day. Hear about a condition you have never heard of before? Educate yourself! Google is easily accessed for many people, and I know I really appreciate it when someone has taken five minutes to educate themselves on my conditions.
Sitting around exchanging petty comments isn’t creating the change we want to see in the world. It is time to stop comparing illnesses, the severity of illnesses, whether or not a disease is life-threatening, etc., and join together to find efficient treatments or even cures for these diseases so that one day, no one has to suffer, and extended hospitalizations are a thing of the past.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.