5 Things I Wish You Knew About Chronic Illness and Boundaries

Photo by Mink Mingle on Unsplash
  1. Someone may not appear “ill” to you, but they may still be unwell and unable to perform the tasks you expect of them.

2. Some people with chronic illness carry a great deal of shame around their limitations. Calling in sick may actually be incredibly difficult even if they know you’ll understand. I know I’ve felt incredibly ashamed taking a sick day for my diabetes because I feel it should be manageable. And that I should be able to push through, or have been able to push through in the past.

3. Even if you have the same chronic illness you may not experience symptoms in the same way as another person with that same illness. I have a lot in common with other Type 1 Diabetics, but how the disease manifests in my life on any given day or week may be totally different than another Type 1’s experience.

4. This one isn’t only applicable to chronic illness, but I think may be the most important: just because you pushed through a hardship, setback, or obstacle and came out the other side stronger for the experience doesn’t mean someone else will. That same experience could break them. Just because you “muscled through” doesn’t mean another person can. This is not to excuse laziness or a lack of rigor, but a call for more empathy in understanding our own strength when measuring it against the strength we expect from others.

5. Finally, you can never truly know someone else’s boundaries and limits. Think how hard it is to actually know your own! Speaking personally, what I was energetically capable of five years ago is not the same as what I’m capable of today. My own capacities shift so quickly based on so many variables, so how could I possibly assume to know what yours are? We all could take a page from Brené Brown’s playbook here and get better at communicating our own boundaries and respecting the boundaries set by others.