A Year of Growth – Week 9 – Reactions to Chronic Illness

Everyone reacts differently to every situation that life throws at them… and unless you’ve been there (which generally I’m hoping the people I come across haven’t) then it’s pretty hard to comprehend what’s going on. Here are a few of the reactions that I’ve had over the years – 

I’ve had a huge range of reactions from people when they find out actually, some choose to offer advice, some ask questions and others change the topic as quickly as possible. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt though it’s that all of these reactions are perfectly valid and all of the people behind them mean well.

  1. Giving Advice
    While somewhat annoying when coming from someone with no idea what they are talking about the people who try to offer advice are honestly just trying to help. It’s a new situation for them, one they don’t know how to cope with and it’s only human nature to want to be of use and make something bad go away. It can be belittling when the 50th person that day is asking if you’ve tried yoga, or drinking more water, or perhaps this random herbal drink my best friends second aunt swears by (this definitely makes it seem like they think that you simply aren’t trying hard enough to get better) but from my experience at least, that isn’t what they mean at all and it’s best to thank them and move on. Trying to explain the term CHRONIC to these people doesn’t tend to go well as they’re fighting a human defence mechanism within them that says anything can be fixed.
  2. Asking Questions
    I actually love these people so much. Questions can be answered, questions can be informative and 9 times out of 10 the people who ask questions end up being the people who come the closest to understanding. These are also the people who tend to hang around and not be scared off when you’re still sick 6 months later.
  3. Changing the Topic
    Again, defence mechanism. It’s only human. These people have comprehended that they can’t do anything about the illness and so the best option is to bury their head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’d rather they talked about it, but you know, this isn’t so bad as it provides a kind of nice release talking to someone who acts as though you are perfectly fine and nothing has changed.

A Year of Growth - 52 Writing Prompts for Chronic Illness Bloggers

Everyone reacts differently to every situation that life throws at them. Honestly, before I got ill I probably would have been one of the people who tries to give advice. It’s only natural to want to help and unless you’ve been there (which generally I’m hoping the people I come across haven’t) then it’s pretty hard to comprehend what’s going on. On the other hand, I’m also sure that everyone with a chronic illness has different preferences about how they’d like people to react, and so there is no “right or wrong” way. If you have recently met someone with and illness or if someone in your life is newly diagnosed, I suggest asking them personally how they would like you to treat them. Chances are they are the only people who know the answer and I’m sure they’ll appreciate your effort.

I’d love to hear about some of the reactions people have received. Come on… share your best and worse reaction stories in the comments! (My best, which if you follow me you’ve probably already heard, was a Neurologist at the local hospital telling me to quit everything and go and sleep for a year).

This post is Part 9 of 52 in the series – A Year of Growth.

The series is a celebration of the first anniversary of The Truth About M.E and is designed to help me grow through my illness throughout my second year of blogging. I look forward to having you along for the journey! 

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