The Mighty Logo

Please Don't Say 'I'm Sorry' When You Hear I'm Chronically Ill

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I have lived with chronic illness the majority of my life, and have faced it in a head-to-head battle against death for the past five years.

And some of the top two words I hear are: “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry you’re in a flare.
I’m sorry you lungs are acting up.

I’m sorry your health limits you.
I’m sorry you’re in pain 24/7.

I’m sorry you’re sick.

I’m sorry life hasn’t gone according to your plan.

I know they are well-intended, but after so many “I’m sorry,” statements, you begin to internalize that pity.

Lately, I began to look at all I endure daily. All that I’ve suffered through. All the times I’ve heard “I’m sorry.” And I began to feel sorry for myself too.

Society has this view that when you’re sick, all you can be is sick.

You can’t be successful.
You can’t be happy.
You can’t be adventurous, or envied.

All you can be is someone others are “sorry” for.

And it isn’t until lately, after I watched some amazing talks by Claire Wineland and did a lot of reflecting, that I realized that way of thinking is absolute garbage.

Because you know what?

I’m not sorry I’m sick.

Sure, being sick absolutely sucks. I wouldn’t recommend it.

But being sick isn’t who you are. It’s just something you happen to live with.

I’d be lying if I said my illness hasn’t limited me. It’s taken what I thought having a “successful” life meant, and absolutely tipped it on its head.

Because of my illness, I’ve learned that I carry a strength most healthy people would envy.

Because of my illness, I’ve learned life is a gift that shouldn’t be wasted, so I treat it accordingly.

When the opportunity for adventure comes, I take it — like one Halloween when I accidentally took my friends to a rave. Instead of leaving, I ended up on stage, dancing with this guy dressed as Superman. Then I took a running leap off the stage and nearly blacked out because both of my ankles attempted to dislocate.

I relish each opportunity I have to go on an adventure, even though I will physically have to pay for it later. I make sure every ounce of pain I’m going to feel for having fun is worth it.

Because of my illness, I can find beauty and laughter in even the most mundane or painful of experiences.

Because of my illness, I found my voice. I found my passion. I want others to know that a life full of pain and struggle can still be a beautiful and amazing life.

It may not be to an audience of thousands, but I’ve learned that what I have to say and what I write, matters.

Through sharing my experiences, others can feel less alone, and know they can get through whatever they’re going through.

My life may not be what others view as “successful.” But I’m dang proud of who I am and what I have accomplished.

And my future, however long or short it may be, may or may not be the world’s version of “successful.”

But it will be beautiful and worthwhile, because  I work to make my life something I love and am I’m proud of.

Not many people can say that.

So when it comes to my chronic illness, I love your support.

But when it comes to chronic illness, I don’t need anyone  to say “I’m sorry.”
There is nothing to be sorry about.

Life may have dealt me a crappy hand, but I’m playing the most out of the cards I’ve been given.



Originally published: September 15, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home