I contracted a chronic illness the day I married my husband. You see, he was diagnosed with a chronic illness when he was only a child. When I married him, I married everything he brought to the table.
Even though I am not the one dealing with symptoms of a terrible sickness in my body, I still deal with it. I deal with it emotionally. I deal with it mentally. I deal with the fall out of his physical symptoms. I also deal with people who have no clue about how to interact with someone with an incurable illness.
So here we go! Let’s set up a few guidelines to help you know what would make us (and probably you) feel more comfortable in social situations. In no particular snarky order:
1. DON’T GIVE ADVICE
Do us all a favor, please don’t try to give advice. It doesn’t really matter if your boss’ nephew’s neighbor’s cousin has the same health issue that we’re dealing with. We live it every day. There is literally a 0.000000009% chance that you can give us advice that we haven’t already tried.
2. DON’T TALK ABOUT ILLNESS EVERY TIME YOU SEE US
Wouldn’t it be weird if we just came up to you at a Christmas party and asked how your hemorrhoids are doing? Look, we get it, you know we’re dealing with stuff and you’re possibly somewhat concerned, but that doesn’t mean that we want to give a full medical report at every social gathering. We would prefer to NOT to be the number one topic of discussion.
3. DON’T ASK ABOUT WHAT MEDS ARE BEING TAKEN
How about you – what kinds of meds are you on? Let me have a look, because I’m SURE I know of a better type of medicine that you could be taking. It feels a little intrusive when the shoe is on the other foot doesn’t it? We’ve been dealing with this disease for longer than you know. If there was better medicine, you can rest assured – we would be all over it.
4. DON’T BRING UP HOMEOPATHIC CURES
I know you are in love with essential oils, exotic healing berries, and your favorite new “cleanse” product, but none of those things have the power to cure my husband. Our problem is one that medical science has no answers for. I hate to burst your bubble, but your favorite YouTube doctor isn’t going to be able to fix our problem either. Drinking all of the apple cider vinegar with cinnamon and lemon in the world is not going to make him all better. And no, it’s not worth a try.
5. DON’T BE WEIRD
If you really want to help, just be our friend. Be regular! Talk about the same stuff you talk to your other friends about. When we’re hanging with you, it would be nice to take a mental vacation from the challenges we face every other moment of the day. Just be a friend – a normal, average, everyday friend.
Remember, there are no easy fixes for what we’ve got going on. In fact, there are zero fixes, but that’s par for the course when you’re living with a chronic illness. It is normal for you to want a solution, we want one too but there isn’t one right now.
Bottom Line: When you’re talking with a family dealing with chronic illness it is best to take your cues from them when it comes to discussing health related topics.