Chronic illness is that issue that seems to not want to be talked about in society (there are many of those), but I'm here to make you talk about it. We are going to talk about it, and we are going to like it... hopefully.
So, what even is chronic illness? Isn't that just something you get past age 70? That's when everything start breaking down, right?
Chronic illness of any type can affect any person, of any age, and of any gender. Make no mistake about it, that it is life changing. Everything you do from then on is like being in a relationship with your body — your body has to want to do it. If it doesn't, well, you can't do it. Sorry. But what's probably worse than being in an unwanted relationship is how people react to it. People don't know what to do, so they kind of just blurt out whatever they think of at the moment. Here's what to not do.
1. I know exactly how you feel. I once sprained my ankle and I had a lot of pain!
I kid with the Dr. House sarcasm. Spraining your ankle does not equate to a life long, life changing illness that needs to be constantly managed for the rest of your life. You do not know exactly how we feel. Unless you are me or someone else chronically ill, and you have the illnesses we do, you cannot know exactly how we feel. You don’t know how we feel. What I have in particular is like spraining every area of your body every day. That said, don't try to pretend to understand. If you don't understand, let us know. We'll be happy to explain. Most of the time, we just want to raise awareness for a certain illness, instead of try to make people to relate to us.
2. Nothing at all.
Society, really, I notice when you are hiding the fact the chronically ill make you uncomfortable. Why is talking about it such taboo? No. People have health problems. Young people have health problems, too, so get it out of your head that only older people can have health problems. These problems are a part of who they am but do not define a person either. You could ask us how we feel, just like I — or any other person, chronically ill or not — would ask you if you had like, a 12 hour stomach virus, which is decidedly not life-changing. Not saying anything makes for a very awkward situation. Even if you don't want to talk about it because it upsets you, you can simply say "I'm sorry to hear that," and get on with your day. Not acknowledging it sort of alienates us, and we didn't intend on making you upset. It's a part of our lives, right?
3. That sucks.
I mean, it does, we know. I'm not usually offended when people say this, but I don't know what to say, since it does kind of suck and it feels like they're saying, "Wow! Glad I'm not you!" I can see why someone would be offended. It also only pays attention to the negative. With every chronic illness, that impacts you every day of your life, you have insight into certain things other people might miss. You have a unique perspective on problems or political issues. It changes your body but also your mind, and this response doesn't account for the perspective you gain.
4. Just get some sleep. You’ll be fine.
If only sleep cured idiocy, too. Some of us sleep more than the average person. If some of us don’t get nine hours of sleep we feel like zombies. In particular, I feel like I have been out drinking in the city when in reality I just got less sleep than my body demands. Telling someone shut up and sleep and you’ll be fine is really rather insensitive. Listen to us. Let us talk. Next time you get into an argument with your brother or sister or parents and have to vent, someone should say just get some sleep and you’ll be fine. It’s just not appropriate. If sleep fixed what we have, we'd break the Guinness book record.
5. I heard about this Dr. Oz remedy...
We really don't want to hear about the remedy Dr. Oz talked about because if we knew of a remedy we would probably use it. A doctor would probably suggest it and if they didn’t, we probably would find it ourselves or ask a support group their thoughts. You will not fix us. Sorry, white knight. We appreciate the thought, but your grandma who told you to take a bath in onion peels and grape juice will not help us. If we thought taking a bath in onion peels and grape juice would work, we would have probably done it already, despite the smell of onions.
Point in case: Listen. Be supportive. TREAT IT LIKE ITS REAL. Don’t take us for granted.