5 Things Not to Say to Someone With a Chronic Illness

There is no darkness, but ignorance.”

William Shakespeare
  1. “You don’t look sick.” There are so many things that are wrong with this. First of all, what does a sick person look like?? Yes, I look fine on the outside, but on the inside, my body is so sick and so tired. Just because I smile and laugh and do all of things a healthy person does, doesn’t mean that it didn’t take me a half an hour to get out of bed, get dressed, and get down the stairs in the morning because my arthritis pain is so bad. Just because I put on a cute outfit and went to work, doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t showered in 3 days because I just don’t have the energy (shoutout to dry shampoo, seriously it’s a lifesaver). You wouldn’t tell someone whose marriage is splitting up “you don’t look like you’re going through a divorce”, so please don’t do it to someone with a chronic illness, it’s incredibly hurtful.
  2. “Have you tried changing your diet?” Please stop. I could cut out sugar, dairy, carbs, gluten and anything else you could think of, and still be chronically ill. The way that I eat will never change the way that my immune system is. If you want to come over and cook me a healthy meal, be my guest. But if you think that after I eat it I’ll tell you I feel great, then I’m sorry to tell you that you’re going to be disappointed.
  3. “I understand, I’m tired too.” I hate to break it to you, but normal fatigue and the fatigue that comes with chronic illness are 2 incredibly different things. A healthy person is tired after a long day at work, or after taking care of their kids, but they aren’t tired right when they open their eyes after a full night’s sleep. I can sleep for 10 straight hours, and still have an overwhelming feeling of fatigue as soon as my eyes open. A shower makes me tired, grocery shopping makes me tired, honestly sitting on the couch and breathing makes me tired. Yes, you might be tired, but you don’t have fatigue on top of joint pain, medication side effects, and 3 autoimmune diseases. So please don’t tell me you understand how tired I am, because the truth is, you really have no idea.
  4. “You shouldn’t be on all of those medications.” I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me to do yoga and take vitamins instead of taking my prescription medications. If doing downward dog while taking a vitamin would take my pain away, I would do it all day everyday, but that’s not how the world works. If the holistic method works for you, awesome. But please don’t push it onto me, it took me 2 years to find the right combination of medication, and I’m not giving them up to take shots of turmeric while laying on a yoga mat.
  5. “Have you tried ___ insert: the Keto Diet, meditation, acupuncture, the new therapy I saw but actually know nothing about?” Odds are, I’ve tried it. Unless you’re a medical professional, or a fellow autoimmune disease warrior, don’t tell me what will make me feel good. I know you probably mean well and are trying to help, but just assume that someone with a chronic illness has tried every option available to them.

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