10 Things Not to Say to Someone with Chronic Illness

It’s been my experience that well-meaning people sometimes say things that don’t come off as well-meaning as they intended. Before I get started, let me just say that if you’ve ever said one of the following to me- IT’S OKAY. I still love you. 😉

I get this stuff all the time and barely even notice it anymore. I just thought it might be nice for everyone to have a heads up on what can be taken the wrong way by people with chronic issues.

The following are ten things you probably don’t want to say.

1. You don’t look good.

I already know this. 😀 I just figured I’d start with an obvious thing to not say.

2. You’re too young for this.

This makes me chuckle. I know people mean well, and I’ve even said the very same to friends of mine. Someone I know is dealing with a situation similar to mine and we jokingly tell each other that we’re too young for these kinds of issues. The thing is, I know that I’m too young. Apparently my body doesn’t, but I do.

3. You were fine yesterday.

I can go from feeling on top of the world to down in the dumps in mere seconds. All it takes is picking up something just slightly too heavy, or banging an elbow against a table, and my entire body flames up with pain yet again. If my life lacks one thing, it’s consistency.

4. You don’t look sick.

Some days I look how I feel (for instance, when I’m on new meds and my face breaks out in a zillion zits, or when my eyes are so dark I look like I was in a street brawl), other days I look perfectly well. That doesn’t mean I am. Maybe I’m having an easy breathing day, so I look normal, but the pain is overwhelming, so I sit and speak little. Saying I don’t look sick makes me feel like you don’t believe I’m truly having problems. Which stressed me out, which causes more problems… So even if you don’t believe me, pretend to. 😉

5. Wow you lose weight so fast. What’s your secret?

My weight fluctuates a lot. So it’s not uncommon for people to ask me this. Sometime I go for days without much food. I have a really strong gag reflex and if my body decides to be unwell, even a spoonful of food can make me upchuck (TMI, sorry). Sometimes my resting heart rate will stay steady at 80-90 beats a minute for weeks on end, which means that just sitting up is enough to make my heart rate over 100, which means rapid-fire calorie burning for weeks. Last night I lay awake in bed for an hour because feeling the blood race through my veins was too distracting to ignore. It felt like I had chugged an energy drink before laying down.

My unspoken (because I try not to be a Debbie-downer) answer to the posed question is: get sick. Get very sick, don’t leave your bed, don’t eat, and watch the pounds melt away! 😉

6. Your tests came back normal, so you must be fine.

This pain and illness isn’t in my head. But hearing people say that makes me feel like it is. Yes, my tests came back normal. All that means is they haven’t tested the right thing yet. The body is connected in too many ways for us to possibly imagine and I firmly believe that one day they’ll figure out what the underlying issue is, they’ll treat it or I’ll  adjust my life routine

7. Prayer worked for you last time, maybe you should try that again.

I’m the first person to say that prayer should be the immediate response to every situation. There are countless times when God has moved in on my behalf and taken away the pain long enough for me to rest, or long enough for me to worship. But there are also times when He hasn’t. Please don’t assume that I’m having a bad day because I haven’t prayed. God has given me good times so that I have something to hold onto during the bad. I am eternally grateful because I truly do not deserve even the best days. But, He is a merciful God and He is seeing me through this.

8. You call off a lot.

I’m embarrassed enough about my call-offs. I HATE calling off. You can ask my coworkers- I’ve been known to go to work or stay at work when I clearly should be at home, in bed, or at the doctor’s office. I HATE having to ask my coworkers to cover for me. Thankfully, I’m blessed with the best coworkers in the world. They’re more like family than coworkers, to be honest. I have something like 10 moms at work. hehe 😀

9. You probably just don’t get enough sleep.

LOL. I sleep anywhere between 10-15 hours a day. I could easily take a nap on top of that, but my schedule doesn’t allow for it. I guess you’re right that it isn’t enough. Oh the struggles of juggling not calling off and getting enough sleep. But I do sleep. I sleep a lot.

10. Maybe you don’t get enough exercise.

Oh goodness, I wish I did. I miss being able to play volleyball for hours on end without blacking out. I miss going on 15 minute walks on work breaks without ending up doubled over and gasping for breath. You’re right. I don’t get enough exercise. But in my defense, I really, really wish I had the ability to.

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6 thoughts on “10 Things Not to Say to Someone with Chronic Illness

  1. We love you, Rachel! I promise not to say these things to you and cover for you any time I can, but stop reminding me that I’m actually old enough to be your mom! LOL!

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    1. Haha, I don’t think you are old enough! Your just a mom in spirit- as in you care for me and keep me on the straight and narrow. 😉 ❤
      Love y'all, too!!

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  2. I agree with everything on here. Great post Rachel! It is encouraging to hear that I am not the only one. Hopefully this article will help people avoid saying things that make it harder emotionally to deal with chronic illness. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I’m so glad you were able to connect with this! People with chronic illness share a lot of the same problems and it’s important we speak up to help each other out. Thanks for reading!

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