I’m sick. Not like having a cold sick, but legitimately sick. I am one of the millions of Americans that lives with one or more chronic, and sometimes debilitating, illnesses. Don’t worry; I get by. Here’s my list of the conditions I have that I have to prioritize:
- Degenerative Joint Disease
- This has caused bulging and herniated discs in my spine
- My vertebrae in my entire back (not my cervical vertebrae, or my neck) are involved, and they rub against each other
- Bilateral spinal stenosis (narrowing of the space where the nerves pass between vertebrae, causing pinched nerves)
- Osteoporosis and osteoarthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease/autoimmune (Microscopic Colitis)
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
- Hiatal Hernia (this will likely need surgical intervention soon)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Pancreatic insufficiency
- Intestinal malabsorption
- Colonizations of both Clostridium dificile (C Diff) and MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus)
There are a few other issues, but these are the most pressing. Now, I don’t “look” sick most days. This is me:
But having all of these conditions mean I often have to be hospitalized (this is also me; well, my arm):
When you have chronic illnesses, boy, it sucks sometimes. It’s painful, and when you get sick, you get sick. I’m talking bedridden for days or weeks kinda sick. But you know what? That’s okay. We adapt. We adjust. And we learn to live with a new “normal.” This is our lives. It’s who we are. And that’s okay.
But sometimes, we are hesitant to talk about what’s wrong with us, how we’re feeling, and the like, because we get some pretty messed up reactions. Well intended reactions, I’m sure, but annoying, nonetheless.
Pity. Boy, pity. That one’s rough. When you see that look in someone’s eyes. When you realize they pity you. You are now a pitiable person. That one hurts. It’s like you’ve somehow become a charity case, someone about whom really sad commercials with Sarah McLachlan songs are made. Someone who gets to make a wish, have a bucket list, and who, frankly, in the eyes of the pitying person, is unable to have a life.
Platitudes. “One day at a time!” “There’s always someone worse off than you!” “You’re stronger than you know!” Yeah, stop that. We don’t need that, it isn’t helpful, and it just makes us feel stupid. When you tell us that there’s always someone worse off, it’s invalidating. Of course we know someone else is sicker than we are, but by saying that, it doesn’t remind us to feel better about our situation. It makes us feel crappy for having a bad day.
Placebo Preparations. It Works! Essential oils! This or that diet! A piece of advice: we’ve probably been sick for awhile, and we’ve also probably tried everything possible in order to get some relief, unsuccessfully. We’re most likely on myriad medications that happened over the course of time, trial and error, and medical testing, by people who’ve gone to school for a very long time in order to make sure they can medically treat people. We call them doctors. Please don’t use us as a money making opportunity, when what you’re recommending could be quite dangerous to our health. Desperate people may try what you’re offering, not knowing whether or not the products you’re pushing (which aren’t FDA approved) are safe for them.
Here is an exchange between myself and a complete stranger, who wanted nothing more than to sell something to me:
She blocked me after this exchange. Now, can you see the possible risks here?
Look, being sick sucks sometimes, sure. But for the most part, we just want to be treated like a normal person. So please, pass on the pity, pack up the platitudes, and part with the placebo preparations. They aren’t helpful. I know you usually have good intentions, but honestly, you’re doing more harm than good.
If you’d like to have a better idea of what someone with chronic illness(es) experiences daily, please take a look at the Spoon Theory.
Now, for my fellow sick folks? Here’s a little Chronic Illness Bingo card.