By Toni Bernhard J.D. in Psychology Today.
The chronically ill carry the extra burden of frequently being misunderstood.
I hope the day will come when chronic illness (which includes chronic pain) is recognized as a normal—and inevitable—part of the human life cycle. I also hope the day will come when people understand that chronic illness can settle in at any age. It’s not reserved for those in their later years; this is true of mental illness, too, such as depression and PTSD.
I have a friend in her 60s who has suffered from a serious autoimmune disease since she was a pre-teen. She’s been in and out of hospitals all of her life. For over 50 years, she’s had to live with people making assumptions about her that are wrong.
I hope this piece will help dispel some of those assumptions. Each situation is different, so some of what follows may not apply to everyone. That said, over the years, I’ve found that those of us who live day-to-day with chronic illness have a lot more in common than I’d realized, no matter where we live.
Here are five assumptions I’d like to see become relics:
1. Don’t assume that what you see or hear reflects how a chronically ill person feels.
Many people who are chronically ill look or sound fine, even those who are in pain. This leads people to say to us, “You look great!” (or words to that effect). This type of comment puts us in a bind. We don’t want to be rude and say something like, “Well, I don’t feel great,” because we know the person is just trying to be nice. I’ve been chronically ill for over 17 years and I still sometimes struggle with how to respond to those “you look great” type of comments.
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