When suffering chronic illness you become accustomed to phrases one might hear from the uninformed bystander. While these phrases may come with good intent, many are actually quite distasteful for the circumstances we are facing. Phrases such as, "Everything will be okay," "I know what you're going through," and "God will never give you more than you can handle," can be somewhat offensive, or even demean the battle we are facing. Here is a compilation of appropriate affirmations someone struggling with chronic illness would rather hear you say.
1. I Googled your illness.
One of the most frequent issues chronic illness sufferers run into is the lack of understanding surrounding their disease. By simply stating you took the time to research their ailment confirms to them you truly care about the battle they are facing. Taking this small glimpse into the symptoms they may be suffering will help you understand the pain and anguish they must endure daily. This simple task will also reveal their likely prognosis which in turn will help the bystander rule out inappropriate remarks such as, "Get well soon" if in fact the patient will not.
2. I have no idea what you are going through.
It is human nature to attempt to relate to those around you, however; when someone experiences great trauma that you have never encountered, expressing you know what they are going through is not appropriate. The reality is you have no idea what it is like to slowly watch your body deteriorate unless you are personally experiencing it yourself. A chronic illness sufferer must not only face unimaginable pain but mental turmoil as a consequence of their disease -- this is not something that a simple stomach flu can spawn understanding from.
3. Sometimes it does feel like we are given more than we can handle.
The truth is, whether you are religious or not, expressing to someone that their situation will never be more than they can handle is distressing. Chronic illness seizes your life and changes everything you knew about yourself. On a daily basis it feels as though the world is collapsing in around you; it most certainly feels at times like it is more than we can handle. While it is a nice sentiment to point out that we are tenacious individuals that can handle what life throws at us, it is more comforting to us when you acknowledge the times we feel overwhelmed and lost.
4. I approve of whatever treatment option you choose for yourself.
Drastic life alterations such as illness are tough enough without input on how we choose to combat them. While many individuals mean well with their herbal remedies, supplementations, or special diet plans, we must decide for ourselves how to handle the situation we have been dealt. If we decide to use Western medicine to treat our illness, please respect that choice and recognize that we know our bodies best. Attempting to persuade us that we have made a misinformed choice, or took the easy way out, does not generate a positive feeling for us. Remember to consider that our illnesses are complex, and while a diet may have worked for your issues, it may not help ours.
5. I know you look good, but I accept that you are suffering beyond what I can see.
The most common phrase a chronic illness sufferer receives is, "But you look so good!" Many of us face what are known as invisible illnesses -- this means that while we may look healthy on the outside, our bodies are raging war just beneath the surface. Acknowledging that we look "good" seems like a positive affirmation, but it can also belittle the battle we are facing, for the phrase "you must be feeling better" normally follows. Chronic illness is like an iceberg -- you can truly only see the tip. The suffering below the surface is extraordinarily large. Please recognize that while we look like a healthy individual there is much hardship beyond what you can simply observe in passing.
6. I recognize that everything might not turn out okay.
There is a significant difference between being pessimistic and accepting the reality of one's situation. All of us battling illness have had to accept our prognosis or deteriorating bodies; living in a sugar-coated bliss will only harm us in the long run. This attitude does not mean we are pessimistic but realistically facing our trial. When someone in our life is unrealistically positive, speaking of "cures" to disease which have none, it can be considered quite degrading. In a way this frame of mind expresses that our trial is not as serious as we believed, that we are "making up" the severity of our situation. Many chronic illnesses do lead to death, and while conveying to someone "everything will be okay" is a lovely thought, truth is, it might not turn out that way. Remind yourself to accept the realism of someones illness -- they have no other choice. This realistic affirmation will not only assist the confidence of the valiant fighter battling disease, but will also create a more comforting environment of acceptance for the bystanders when things do take a turn for the worst.
Chanel White is a young woman battling Systemic Scleroderma, among many other conditions. She has dedicated her life to raising awareness to those suffering chronic illness. To follow her health journey you can visit her blog: A Day In The Life Of A Tube Fed Wife.
All photos courtesy of Chanel White.