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When Loved Ones Can’t Comprehend What We Go Through With Our Chronic Illnesses

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We shouldn’t expect people to understand. I don’t think anyone who says they do really does.

Perhaps this might sound controversial, but do hear me out. In all seriousness, how can anyone understand something they have never experienced for themselves, even if they tried?

It would be from pure imagination — although fiction does have great power — like a human pretending to be a fish. Even if you could hold your breath for 10 minutes, the skill to breathe underwater is still something you will never possess. It is simply not in your genes.

Have you ever gotten your heart broken or lost a loved one? Then you would know there is nothing like it in the world, that it is beyond even the most terrifying nightmare you could have possibly conjured, prior to the actual experience.

Let’s just say we have an extra layer to our slice of life, an eleventh dimension. Perhaps it grants added insight or accelerates wisdom that only comes with age (it sometimes does feel as if our bodies are in their 60s, by the way), but it isn’t a choice we made or want.

So don’t blame a healthy friend, partner, colleague or even stranger for not understanding how you feel at the moment, or what you’re going through in general. Perhaps they are trying hard, but that is the extent of their abilities — to try. And be glad they don’t understand! I wouldn’t want any of my loved ones to.

Having said all that, there is something that they can understand — that they don’t and can’t understand how you feel or what your life is like, but they can know you are going through a tough time. Empathy is an ability most people possess and can choose to nurture through practice.

Our loved ones should be there for us even if they cannot comprehend what we are going through. Just sit beside us and say, “I am here for you. Let me know how I can help.”

Follow this journey on A Chronic Voice.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to 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.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: February 17, 2016
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