When I was first diagnosed with my chronic illness, my family and friends rallied behind me, offering their support. But more than a year later, they seem to not realize “chronic” means my illness would still be here. Nowadays, they chastise me for not feeling up to attending family get-togethers, for not accomplishing tasks quickly enough, and for not displaying an always happy attitude.
How do I remind them that I still have that illness? That their support is still needed, if only just in understanding my limits?
Oh my Dear, unfortunately what you describe is all too common for those with a chronic illness.
For whatever reason — wishful thinking, denial, forgetfulness, or just plain old insensitivity — as one moves further and further from the shock of the initial diagnosis it’s not unusual for family and friends to “forget” that the chronically ill person is still ill. And this is especially so when the ill person doesn’t “look” sick.
My advice is for you to politely remind the family member or friend who is bugging you to come to some party or picnic that you have a chronic illness and are not feeling well enough to attend — and leave it at that.
Example: “I would love to attend Aunt Stella’s birthday but as you know I have a chronic illness and unfortunately I’m not up for it. I will miss you all.”
For whatever reason, as one moves further from the shock of the initial diagnosis it’s not unusual for family and friends to “forget” that the chronically ill person is still ill. And this is especially so when the ill person doesn’t “look” sick.
If a polite response isn’t enough and they keep pushing — I advise you turn the tables on them. You owe them no further explanations so instead of going on and on until they “understand” your situation, firmly ask them why they keep asking.
Example: “I’m sorry. I thought I explained I have a chronic illness and I’m not up for it. May I ask why you keep asking me?”
If someone chastises you for not accomplishing a task quickly enough, my advice is that such a rude remark is best ignored, or you might ask, “Does it really matter to you?”
Lastly, if someone actually inquires as to why you don’t have a smile on your face, know that it’s your right not to answer stupid questions. But if you feel the need to respond, Ms. Meniscus recommends saying, “Oh, I thought I was smiling.”
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