Anyone who has ever had a protracted medical issue, including pregnancy, has heard a plethora of ignorant remarks from well-intentioned but absolutely idiotic people. The one most chronically ill people complain about is “But you don’t look sick”. Umm… based on my experience, this one is a positive. Think about it. If I looked like I felt most of the time, small children would run screaming in the opposite direction. I may feel like crap, but at least I don’t look like it! Once you step back from the notion that you have to “prove” to the world there really is something wrong with you, you can easily turn this one around to be a positive. (It’s getting past that whole “proving” thing that is so hard!) Trust me. I have heard much, much worse. Some of my favorites are listed below.
“It could be so much worse. You could have cancer.” Preferably this one is followed by a detailed description of the most horrific stories this moron has ever heard about from her sister’s husband’s cousin’s best friend’s boss. But do not get sucked into the trap of trying to explain what you have as it relates to this. You cannot argue with stupid. Just nod and extract yourself as quickly as possible, and try to avoid ever again being in this person’s orbit.
“We decided to cancel our plans with you, because sometimes you back out because you are sick.” This one pretty much guarantees I will never make plans with you again. Healthy people have no concept of how painful and heartbreaking it is to be stuck at home, too sick to do anything, knowing everyone else is out having a good time. I don’t cancel unless I have no other choice. For a long time, I just did not make any plans to do anything with anyone. Flexibility, understanding, and compassion can go a very long way. People who lack those qualities should be gently removed from your day-to-day life.
“I’ve never heard of it. It couldn’t be that bad.” HAHAHA! Okay, let’s go with that.
“Why do you bother trying? Shouldn’t you stay home and get disability?” It took me a long time (too long) to give up trying to keep my job. But I worked just as hard for my education and licensure as everyone else, and working gave me a sense of satisfaction and self-worth I had a hard time giving up. I felt like as long as my sporadic absences and working from home did not directly affect you, it was none of your business. So shut it and get back to surfing the Internet on company time.
“You should exercise/drink aloe juice/eat licorice/try acupuncture/become vegan…” This one is usually preceded by “I’ve never heard of it”, which makes it even more entertaining. Unless you can define what I have, please do not offer me a bunch of voodoo to fix it. I know more about my disease than the majority of doctors I meet, so if there were a non-traditional cure out there, believe me, I would have already jumped all over it.
I think it is important to remember that most people have good intentions. And typically, they just do not know what to say. But I would much rather a person say to me, “I don’t know what to say or how to act”. I will let you know what I need. And most days, what I need is to be treated like a normal, healthy person. I live with this 24/7. Even an hour reprieve would be fabulous… an hour when I look a helluva lot better than I feel.