5 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone With a Chronic Illness

I was diagnosed with a chronic illness a few years ago, and since then I have had to make a lot of changes to the way I live my life. Some of those changes have garnered some judgment from people, and it’s annoying having to justify the choices I make to live more comfortably with my illness. Below are five of the most frustrating things I commonly hear people say about how I live my life with a chronic illness.

  1. 1. "You're just being lazy."

    Many times, I opt to take the elevator or escalator over the stairs or taking the bus over walking. Many people just assume it’s because I’m lazy, especially if I’m only going up one flight or traveling a short distance. Of course, no one likes walking a lot or taking the stairs, but for me it’s more than just being too lazy. My illness causes severe fatigue and joint pain, so on my bad days I try to avoid walking long distances or taking the stairs. If I don’t, I get bad pain in my legs and back and my fatigue makes it hard to focus and simply stay awake. So, no, I’m not just being lazy.

  2. 2. "Why are you always so tired?"

    I often get criticized for opting to go to sleep rather than staying up to do homework or finish an assignment. However, like I previously mentioned, I have bad fatigue and pain, and they’re exacerbated when I don’t sleep. Many people are confused about how I’m still so tired even when I sleep a lot. There isn’t a direct cause; fatigue and sleepiness are just symptoms of my illness and out of my control.

  3. 3. "Why can't you get a regular job like the rest of us?"

    I talk a lot about how hard it is to find a job. Most people say things like, “Why don’t you just work retail or as a waitress?” etc., like a “normal” job. When I say that I can’t, they respond that I’m just being picky. This past summer I worked as a cashier, and it was an awful experience. Standing for long periods of time and lifting heavy things is awful. I would go home every day with horrible back and leg pain and my legs would swell to twice their normal size. So, it’s not easy for me to work a “normal” job. 

  4. 4. "You're just out of shape."

    I hate this one because it dismisses my illness as something within my control. I didn’t choose to have this illness; there isn’t a lot I can truly do to “cure” my symptoms. The only thing I can do is avoid my symptoms’ triggers. It’s not that I’m just out of shape and can’t take the stairs or walk a lot. After a while of hearing this one, it makes me question myself and the things I do. Like am I just out of shape? Will this go away if I work out? The answer is no. This illness is something I will live with for the rest of my life. No amount of exercising will make it go away.

  5. 5. "Why can’t you just do normal things?"

    This is definitely the one that bothers me the most. Many times, my friends will invite me out to do things. On my bad pain days or with certain activities, I have to decline. Of course, after a while people get frustrated that I can’t do things or can’t go out. I don’t blame them – I’m frustrated too. I wish I could just do whatever I want, whenever I wanted to. But that’s not the case. The reason this one bothers me the most is that I get frustrated and angry at not being able to do things, especially when they’re things I used to be able to do. It sucks when your own body prevents you from doing things.

I don’t say any of this to gain pity; I’m just tired of having to explain myself to people. It’s tiring constantly being judged for something that you can’t control. So, I say this to tell people not to jump to conclusions or make assumptions about what people do. You never know why people make the choices they do. 


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