We are taught from a young age that when you are unwell, you simply book an appointment with the doctor, get a prescription for medication and all will be well.
But unfortunately that isn’t the case with many conditions.
I and many others worldwide have an invisible chronic illness. Meaning that multiple strangers could walk past me in a day and wouldn’t ever know I had any kind of condition or disease.
It can be difficult to deal with someone who has an invisible illness. Most of the time you are probably just trying to understand what they experience on a day-to-day basis and trying to sympathise.
From the perspective of someone with a chronic illness, be mindful that some of the things you have or are thinking about saying to them might hit them harder than you think.
So if you’re reading this and know someone with a chronic/invisible illness and you’re not sure how to approach a conversation, here are 5 things NOT to say:
‘Oh yeah, my granny’s neighbour’s son’s friend’s mum has that and she manages fine’
One of my friends got a tattoo on her ribs and the pain didn’t bother her. I, on the other hand, could barely sit still and the tears were streaming down my face throughout the sitting. No two people experience the same thing.
‘You’re always saying you’re tired’
One word. FATIGUE. Our bodies simply don’t function the same as a healthy persons’ body.
‘You’re so lucky that you don’t have to go to work’
Trust me, it’s not by choice. I can guarantee you that one of the most upsetting things about them having their condition is that they don’t get to have a stereotypical ‘normal’ life. Watching everyone else go about their everyday lives and knowing you physically can’t is soul destroying.
‘But you look fine to me’
Yeah, maybe so. But judging a book by its cover isn’t going to get you anywhere. If they’re telling you they’re not feeling great, take their word for it.
‘I read online that if you try ___ it’ll cure you’
Right. They have to see medical professionals all the time, if the answer was simply drinking a smoothie every day then what would be the point in all the medications that we have to take?
While many of us know you’re just trying to help, be wary of offering harmful or patronising comments that may worsen a situation. If you’re going to offer medical advice, make sure it’s researched. Otherwise, we’ll all appreciate a simple ‘I’m here for you’. That one goes down a treat.
Words by Sandranne Clark