What Not to Say to Someone with a Chronic Illness
If you have a friend or family member with a chronic illness, it can be quite confusing. One minute they look fine and the next they’re bedridden with a fever. So, what kinds of things should you and should you not say to someone who suffers with a chronic illness?
“You know, we’re all tired.” Yes, we can usually imagine that everyone is tired from their busy daily lives. But unless you have ever had to nap after getting dressed or taking a shower seemed too overwhelming, then you’re probably not tired in the same way we are. There is definitely a huge difference between tiredness and fatigue, the latter is associated with chronic illnesses.
“Why don’t you just power through and get on with it?” Usually, powering through and getting on with it requires more energy than most of us have. In some cases, “powering through” could have dangerous side effects or result in just generally feeling horrible for the rest of the day or the rest of the week. If pushed too hard, a person with a chronic illness might even develop serious or life-threatening complications.
“Why are you only sick when it has to do with me?” This is one I’ve heard a few times from not just friends but also family members. I can’t even tell you the amount of things I’ve missed that were for myself, so taking it personally only causes stress on you, the ill person and your relationship. Likely, the person is also missing a lot of other activities that you don’t even see or know about.
“I know you want to leave and rest, but I need you to stay and tough it out today.” If someone with a chronic illness needs to go home and rest, you should let them. Do not force them to go out or do something for your own social agenda.
“It’s all in your head.” We can assure you, it isn’t!
“Have you tried xyz diet or these essential oils?” We probably have and they likely don’t work. If you have a chronic illness, you get so much conflicting information about what diet or new magic elixir is supposed to cure your disease that it is hard to keep it straight…and diet doesn’t cure any disease, except Celiac’s. A healthy diet is important, but we can’t try every single fad diet that comes along.
“Did you know you have X disease because you eat processed foods/have a build up of toxins in your body and if you just detox, you’ll be cured?” While processed foods are not the healthiest and should generally be avoided, most chronic illnesses do not correlate with how much processed food is ingested. Chronic illnesses are also not related to detoxing in any way, though cleansing your body can be helpful.
“I wish I could stay in bed all day!” For reals? You wish your entire body hurt from head to toe and that you felt like a block of cement was sitting on your chest and that you were wading through Jell-O and could get nothing productive done? Okay, cool, come take my place!
“You’re too young to be in so much pain.” Tell me about it. But it’s the way it is.
“You’re STILL having these issues?” Chronic typically means forever, or for a long time anyway.
“You think YOUR life is stressful? Try my life. I work 8–5!” Damn, I wish I could.
What do we want to hear?
- ”I am here for you.”
- -”Don’t worry about not making it tonight. We’ll catch up later.”
- -”This must be really frustrating for you.”
- -”How are you really feeling?”