People, whether on the outside or inside, often see the chronically ill on their good days and ask,
“Can’t you *insert thing they can’t do*?” They don’t mean such things harshly: they know
that those of us that have had to, say, give up traditional jobs miss the identity and socialization
that came with working those jobs and that some of us even liked those positions!
But what they don’t see are the bad days, which generally outweigh the good. They don’t see the
weeks on the couch, the endless days of migraines, the turbulent bipolar mood swings and
debilitating anxiety. They don’t realize that, in truth, those of us that aren’t working due to a
chronic illness really cannot work.
People often think that because their friend or family member spent one day with them at the
beach or out shopping that all their days look like the fun one they shared. But the harsh reality is
that most of them do not.
And that’s where understanding tends to fail. Many struggle with understanding how
someone can appear happy and healthy every time they see that person, while claiming to feel ill
most, or all, of the time. And this lack of understanding sheds light on some things we in the
chronically ill community need to stop doing.
1.) STOP always putting on a brave face.
There are most certainly times that a brave face and smile are necessary, but those
of us with chronic illness have allowed “faking being well” to seize control of our lives.
Not only does that give others the impression that we really can handle more than we say
we can, but it also taxes us to the point that our alone time is spent feeling even more
miserable than we may have if we’d allowed ourselves to simply be in the presence of
The lesson? Be vulnerable. Don’t feel that you must always fake it and smile for
people. It’s okay if someone realizes you don’t feel well. And if they take it badly? That’s
2.) STOP always saying that you’re “okay.”
I finally came to a point where I wouldn’t say I was “great!” when asked how I
was doing, but too often, I still say that “I’m okay.” Yet, that is often a lie.
The lesson? If you don’t feel well, say so! Not for sympathy, but if someone
asks, “How have you been?” you are well within your right to say, “Ya know, the last
couple days have been rough on my health. Thank you for asking.” And if the person to
whom you’re speaking prays, adding in a request for prayer is good!
3.) STOP always being ashamed.
It took a long time for me to be even somewhat tolerant of the idea that my doctor
deemed it best I be on disability, and the negativity I’ve met along the way hasn’t
helped things. But there should be no shame. God designed us all differently, all with
different skill sets, and all with different plans regarding how we are to use those skills.
The lesson? Be okay with not being able to work as much or at all as you once did
or once dreamed you could. God’s paths for our lives often look nothing like the courses
we had plotted.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
~ Isaiah 55:8-9 (KJV)