Have you ever wondered what is the right thing to say to someone who is suffering from a Chronic Illness? Like a Do’s and Dont’s list? Actually there is. I just made one up. Im sure Im not the only one who has a list. Theirs may even be different than mine. As someone who has struggled with a chronic illness, for what seems like my whole life, just when I think I have heard everything there is to hear, someone else pops out with something that takes things to a new level. So here is a compilation of things I have had the joys of hearing or is known to be a commonality.
Surely this list could go on and on for days. But we will keep it short and simple.
•My (insert someone you know) had the same thing, but she kept active and still took care of her responsibilities.
This is offensive on many levels. Not only are you expecting an individuals circumstances to be the same. Chronic illness isnt a one size fits all illness.
• My (insert someone you know) had that but she cured herself.
Or better yet…
• My (insert someone you know) was cured by XYZ Brand Essential Oils/ TUV Awesome Juice/QRS Scented Candles. I can get you signed up as an independent distributor at a discounted rate of $199.99.
You are not being helpful. You are attempting to profit off the back of my illness. Call it what it is. Seriously, tread lightly. This is rude.
• If you just worked out/got some sunshine once in a while, you would feel better.
What medical school did you attend anyway? Unless you have a valid medical degree and specialize in this persons area of medical concern, until you are asked for your medical opinion, please keep your opinions to yourself.
• Asking to be hooked up with pain/muscle medication is unacceptable.
Would you ask someone else for their Birth Control pills for day 14, day 19, days 23-26? People who suffer in pain don’t have “Extra”. And that is aside from the legal standpoint and asking someone who suffers from Chronic Pain or Illness to be hooked up with pills for your recreational benefit is saying that your fun levels are more important than the treatment of someone elses health.
• “You don’t look sick.”
Well surprise, surprise, surprise. You cant tell what a person is suffering through or suffering from by looking at them. Just because you cant “see” it, doesnt mean it isnt there or isnt real.
• “My (insert someone you know) died from that.”
Yeah, people die from it. Thanks, for the reminder. Could we just stop with this altogether.
•”Wow! You probably passed that on to your children.”
I dont have anything for this.
• “It is all in your head.”
Yes, I have actually been told this…BY A MEDICAL DOCTOR! The best part of this being told to me was when I chose not to see this doctor again because of his arrogance and ignorance, a year later HIS “Physician’s Assistant” requested the labs that ultimately diagnosed my imaginary condition. Its never a good idea to make assumptions. Not even for doctors. The end result will always be the same.
• “I totally understand what you are going thru, my (insert a casual acquaintances name) had that and it was difficult for her”.
We all understand the sentiments trying to be expressed here but there is no way that a witness to a serious medical condition could understand the effects Chronic Illness has on the person directly suffering.
Dealing with Chronic Illness is difficult. Until you have been there, you cannot truly know, but that does not eliminate your sympathies and concerns for others who do suffer like this everyday. You can always express care, concern and interest in someone elses life that is going through an illness without being insensitive. You dont have to ignore it and pretend that its not happening.
• Ask Questions. Ask about their day, week and other things they have going on in their life. If they are open to talking about how they feel, ask how they feel. Dont just listen…and hear what they are saying to you.
• Take the initiative to learn about your friends or family members condition. Research. But please…not in Hypochondria Mode.
• Call or Visit. If someone is up for a visit, call and ask if they would like some company. Call them just to let them know you are thinking of them. If you are planning for a visit, plan ahead. If someone isnt up for a visit, dont take is personally. It could be any number of factors from fatigue to a house that they would feel embarrassed about (Been There!)
• Offer your assistance. If there is something they need help with, offer your time and energy. Offer to take the kids to lunch or a stroll to the park. Help make freezer meals, Take out the garbage, etc.
• Remember to include them. Just because they didnt attend a BBQ or Picnic last time they were invited doesnt always mean they cant attend the next one. For some people with medical concerns, they have good days and not so good days. Invite them anyway. They may come. There is no worse than feeling like you have been forgotten, excluded or left out.
• Take the time to learn about their medical condition. Having family and friends support and understanding in a difficult time is a sense of relief for many people. You can join online suppprt groups, support groups for friends and family of peoole who suffer from Chronic or Terminal Illness.
• Be yourself. Be who you really are. No one wants to hang around with an uptight Debbie Downer. Have the conversations that make you remember why your relationship with this person is so special.
• Make the time. Life is short. Chronic Illness or not, immortality is unsustainable. Make the best of your time and create the memories that you want to have…TODAY!