Our list of 12 things NOT to say to someone with a chronic illness. We know that so much of the time, these statements are said from people who are trying to be kind and mean the best. We understand and appreciate any kind sentiment, we just wanted to shine a light on how these comments can sound to someone with chronic conditions! Also Check out our 12 things TO say to someone with a chronic illness.
1. I knew someone who had that and they’re better now
It’s great you know someone with a similar condition that is healed or improved. Although this line is said to inspire hope, it can make the person going through the illness feel a bit frustrated. No two cases are ever alike, especially when dealing with autoimmune or autonomic conditions. So the fact that one person is feeling better has nothing to do with any other medical case outside their own.
2. You’re too young to be dealing with this
Yes, we know! Out of the whole list of things not to say to someone with a chronic illness, this is probably the number one thing we hear. Trust us, we are very aware of our age and what the typical person our age is doing.
3. How were you able to go out yesterday and not today?
We wish we could tell you what is going on in our bodies that is suddenly making us feel much more sick than we did an hour ago. Is my blood pressure dipping? Is it a Lupus flare? Did we overdue it when we went out last?
Often times it’s a puzzle for us and although frustrating, our schedules are not always predictable. We might be able to work out in the morning, get a bad dip, then be bed bound the rest of the day.
Em: Somebody close to me recently questioned why I was able to work out but then suddenly I couldn’t go to the grocery store. This was said through text, and upon reading it I burst into tears out of frustration. I called Kate who talked me through it and reminded me that sometimes we have to take the ones we’re close to, and walk them through what a day can be like for us, share articles on our conditions, and explain as best as we can why everything can be so unpredictable.
4. You’re on too many medications
We mean this as politely as possible, but please stop with this comment. It’s very easy to be anti-pills if you’re in great physical health. DO NOT pill shame people who are on very specific medications to treat their conditions. Most likely, if someone says, this they are making a snap judgement based on no real information.
Em: I had a girls dinner last week and one of my friends was asking about all things health related and I explained I was having a bit of a hard time adjusting to one of my medications. She then went on to tell me how little she thought my doctor knew and he was nothing more than a ‘pill pusher’. To me, this comment just made her seem incredibly uninformed and came across quite rude. The pills he’s ‘pushing’ have saved my life and made me able to function again, so needless to say, I couldn’t disagree with her comment more.
5. I could never do what you’re doing
We’ve heard this one countless times and it always makes us laugh in our minds. It’s not like we said, ‘Oh I bet we can do this, sign us up!’ The thing is, you COULD do what we’re doing, because you wouldn’t have a choice. You would have to go through it, it’s not voluntary.
6. You don’t look sick
It’s called invisible illness for a reason. Some of the sickest we have felt has been when we’re out in the world looking normal. This is a very reoccurring statement that we hear and definitely belongs on our list of things not to say to someone with a chronic illness!
7. You’re still going through that?
Yep! That’s the whole ‘chronic’ part of chronic conditions. We know it may seem like a long time from your perspective, but imagine how it feels from ours.
8. You seem more “normal” now
Thanks? Probably last time you saw me I was in more of a flare up or adjusting to meds or I overdid it the day before. Just wait, I’ll probably seem more abnormal again pretty soon.
Kate: I had this said to me a few weeks ago. While I know it was said in a positive way, it left me laughing to myself!
9. Oh ya I’ve been under the weather too
This is a tricky one because in no way do we think you can’t complain about any health problems because it doesn’t seem as significant to ours. Please , complain away! You don’t have to have a chronic issue to bitch about your health. What is difficult for us is when people try to say they completely understand because they’re coming off a rough cold for the past week (or something like that). It’s those cases that we have to refrain from a giant eye roll.
10. You’re over exaggerating
This comment is never a good idea. Everyone we know who has chronic conditions DOWN PLAYS what they’re dealing with as to not seem like they’re complaining too much. Take what they’re saying seriously, if someone’s telling you it’s that bad, it’s that bad.
11. Must be nice to relax all day
Funny you say that, because we were just thinking how nice it would be to feel healthy enough to go to work all day and go out to eat at restaurants and function like a healthy adult. If someone feels sick, they’re not relaxing, they’re trying to get through it.