Tuesday, July 23, 2013

10 Things You Should NOT Say to Someone With a Chronic Illness

Normally, I like to talk directly to you, my fellow fibro and chronic illness warriors. YOU are the only people who matter to me. I am here to share in your struggle. I am here to try to help. And I am here to listen and understand. That is the main purpose for writing about my struggle with fibromyalgia.

Today, however, I want to make a little detour from that main purpose and address all those around us: friends, family, co-workers, enemies, critics, and everyone in between. Today, I felt the need to address the top 10 things you should NEVER say to someone suffering from a chronic illness.

10.) “Oh, but this pill will help...” Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that we chronic illness sufferers DO want to get better. We DO appreciate your advice. We DO love that you are concerned and are trying to help. But please, take a moment and listen. Some of us (particularly those with fibromyalgia) have tried everything under the sun, and we are still struggling. Many chronic illnesses are complex and tend to vary person to person. There is often no cure and no one-size-fits-all treatment plan. Please believe us when we say that a little pill is NOT the answer.

9.) “But you finished all that stuff yesterday...” This is definitely one of my pet peeves! Just because we were able to be productive yesterday, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have a bad day today. Oh, and no, we aren’t just making excuses so we can avoid you and slack on our responsibilities. Actually, our symptoms come and go. Some days are better and some days are rotten. At times, we can catch a glimpse of the old life we used to have. And other times, we are reminded just how fragile and limited our medical conditions can make us. It’s just how life with a chronic illness plays out.

8.) “You just need to get out more...” Why is it as soon as we get discouraged or have a bad day that people assume that we are simply depressed or in a rut? Our symptoms are real. They are NOT in our heads. Having a flare day is NOT a sign of weakness or of a poor outlook on life. And no, our problems cannot be solved simply by getting a social life. Would you try to treat the flu or the chickenpox with a girls’ night out? I don’t think so!

7.) “Oh, I felt like that once; it wasn’t so bad...” Wait? You didn’t just go there! Attempts at sympathy and understanding are very much welcomed. But since you haven’t walked a mile in our shoes, check your judgement at the door, please. There is NO way you are going to win any bonus points by trying to trivialize our symptoms. We know what we feel. It is very real and very present for us. For everyone’s sake, please keep your comparisons to yourself...or even better, don’t make them at all!

6.) “But I thought you’ve seen a bunch of doctors...” Yes, we have visited more doctors than we care to remember. We have been poked, prodded, and violated in ways that would make you cringe. We have spent thousands--even millions--of dollars and countless hours trying to get to the bottom of our medical conditions. And we will continue throwing endless time, energy, and cash away in our pursuit for health. Nevertheless, we aren’t cured and some of us aren’t really even better than when we started out. Doctors aren’t magicians or miracle workers. There are some things even they can’t fix.

5.) “You’re still sick? I’ll keep praying...” Now don’t get me wrong. Prayer is a wonderful thing, and we always appreciate it. God is up there listening and He has been known to create miracles from time to time. However, man can’t live on prayer alone. Just like you we have other needs. With your next prayer, could you throw in a prepared meal on a flare day? Or maybe an offer to pitch in around the house? Or perhaps a little companionship during the periods we are stuck at home. Thank you for petitioning the Lord for what He might do to help, but don’t forget the little things you could do to help, as well. It’s the little things that mean the most!

4.) “Maybe if you just tried a little harder...” Oh, this one irks me to no end! We chronic illness sufferers fight every day for so many things people normally take for granted. We fight to keep our food down. We fight to walk. We fight to take care of ourselves. We fight to do the simplest of tasks. Having a chronic illness is downright hard work, but we keep at it day after day. We are relentless, merciless overachievers, and it bothers us immensely when we can’t measure up. So, what makes you think we could push ourselves anymore than we already do? It simply isn’t humanly possible.

3.) “Perhaps you only need a little more faith...” God IS a miracle worker. He DOES heal the faithful and CAN move mountains for those who truly believe. But isn’t it a little arrogant to believe that you know what God is or isn’t doing in someone else’s life or what He is thinking? The truth is the Lord works in mysterious ways. He often does the exact opposite of what mankind believes should happen. And by the way, I think I remember hearing something about only needing faith the size of a mustard seed.

2.) “But you don’t look sick to me...” This statement here is a verbal slap in the face! Please, don’t ever say this to anyone with medical problems. Since when is there a visual requirement for being sick? There are a lot of illnesses and conditions out there that are quiet and devious. They silently wreck people’s lives with little to no external evidence. You wouldn’t tell someone that they aren’t suffering from heartburn or a headache, so please don’t take it upon yourself to judge whether or not we are suffering from a chronic illness.

1.) “But don’t you want to do more with your life...?” No, chronic illness is NOT a poor career move. It is NOT a poor lifestyle choice. We didn’t wake up one day and say, “Oh, I think I’ll develop a life-altering condition today.” We still have our hopes and dreams. We still have our desire for and vision of a better, more prosperous tomorrow. We struggle with our worth, our usefulness, and our purpose. Exactly like you, we want--we NEED--to feel like we are living a productive and purposeful life. If it were up to us, we’d kick chronic illness to the curb in a New York second and move on to greener pastures. But that’s the thing. It is NOT up to us. We are stuck in an unfair situation, and we are forced to make the best of it. Yes, that is the life we have been given, and we choose every day to live it as best as we can. How could you expect anything more?


  1. Amen, sister! Great post.
    It's not fibro with me, but I can surely identify with this!

  2. Thank you so much! I shared on my wall, and as soon as I get my new blog up and running, will link you there also.