Living with chronic illness, particularly an invisible one like arthritis, can attract some unwanted comments and advice from time-to-time. Here is a list of the most annoying things people say to me about my chronic illness, and what my crosses my mind as I hear them, constantly, but just smile and nod.
1. “But you don’t look sick.”
Hours of exercise, a healthy diet, cutting back on sugar, alcohol and overall changing my lifestyle because of my illness will do that. You don’t have to look sick to be sick. You don’t have X-ray vision, unless you’re Superman.
2. “But you are so young.”
Guess how much arthritis cares about age? None. There is no age of consent for chronic illness. Kids get arthritis too.
3. “You are sick because of your medications.”
Yep. My meds are some serious drugs that come with some pretty hefty side effects and risks. But the risk of my disease affecting my heart, lung, or eyes, which could lead to fatality is much greater. The desire to not be in a wheelchair before I am 40 also does it for me.
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4. “Have you tried turmeric?”
I have tried so much turmeric my poop should be orange. Beets, green juices, dark cherries, all sorts of color poop with added flax seeds.
5. “Have you gone keto/raw/vegan? It cured someone I know.”
While diet does have a significant impact on most illnesses, I’ve gone down that route and can tell you what benefits I’ve experienced. Not all cases are the same, and their medications probably had something to do with it too. Isn’t it fun having everyone nitpick your diet because you are chronically ill?
6. “Don’t trust doctors or Big Pharma.”
Please keep your conspiracy theories to yourself.
7. “I think I have that in a finger.”
8. “You’ll be OK, everything will be fine.”
Unless you’re a psychic, you don’t know that. With chronic illness comes great anxiety and serious questions about our future.
9. “At least it’s not cancer.”
But the medications and lowered immune system make me more susceptible to various cancers and other co-morbidities.
10. “At least it’s not fatal.”
How about I punch you in the arm and say at least it’s not a gun shot?
11. “It could be worse.”
I have a progressive illness; chances are it will get worse. Co-morbidities are a bitch.
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12. “Just be positive. You are sick because of your attitude.”
While attitude is huge, it is impossible to be positive all the time with chronic pain, fatigue and the impact disease has on one’s life. If you catch someone in a weak moment, don’t tell them to think positive. Sometimes we just need to vent and be heard. I’m just trying to explain why I sleep a lot, why I use a cane, why I am in so much pain and why I never know how I am going to feel when I wake up each day and often have to cancel plans. Depression is a common symptom with rheumatoid arthritis.
13. “You should get out more.”
It’s my debilitating illness, chronic pain, fatigue and compromised immune system keeping me in, thanks.
14. “Just push through it.”
How about I push you through something? Like a window. That hurts too.
15. “It’s just arthritis.”
Even Dr. Google can tell you no.
16. “Everyone has chronic pain, illness or something ‘wrong with them.'”
Is it also attacking their organs and slowly immobilizing them? Not all pain is equal, not that I like to play the competition game but there is more to my condition than just pain.
17. “I get tired too.”
Yes, of course you do! It is a natural body function to fall asleep daily, but when sleep doesn’t leave you refreshed in the morning, it’s chronic fatigue and way different than being tired. It’s my body responding to medications and disease activity.
18. “Have a coffee or energy drink.”
I am pretty sure the pot of coffee I drank this morning wasn’t decaf. Coffee ain’t touching this fatigue.
19. “Yeah, I had that too.”
Once you have RA, you have it for life. A very very small amount of people may go into remission, like 6 percent of the 1 percent of the population who have RA.
20. “I know someone with your condition, but they can work.”
Not every case is the same! Plus people have different lives and different priorities. One of my biggest decisions to go on disability was so I could conserve my energy from crushing fatigue so I could be a good mother. Remember fatigue is a very debilitating symptom, and some find they struggle even more with the fatigue than the pain. The same goes if you live with the condition and criticize others for not working.
21. “How does that affect sex?”
Asking a girl you’ve just met how her invisible illness affects sex is sleazy.
Hearing comments like these can be so frustrating. Remember though, most people are trying to be helpful and kind but just don’t know any better.