There are lots of lists like this floating around on the Internet. Every chronically ill person on the planet has a log of them, in mind. Why not add my list to the pot, of totally asinine things that I've actually heard people say, to me, since I've been diagnosed.
Let's just call this a public service warning: DON'T SAY SHIT LIKE THIS TO SICK PEOPLE. WE DON'T LIKE IT.
Things TO say: I'm so sorry that this has happened to you? What can I do to help? or, I don't totally understand what's going on, or your diagnosis? Please explain.
Yeah, that's about it. If you want to help, ASK HOW. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Chronic illness is super complicated. One system shuts down another, which shuts down another. It's like dominoes. And, it never, ever stops. So, you don't know shit about what's going in in their bodies. Oh, and then depression sets in, because their life fucking sucks. Chronic illness ruins people. It takes everything away, bit by bit. Sometimes, it gives back, slowly; but it's very slow.
We learn to pull ourselves out of it, and we put on our big-girl panties after a while, but it sucks. It gets easier sometimes, and tougher others. But, you don't know all of that because you are outside, on the periphery, unless you are their immediate family. So, don't add to our difficulty, unless you plan to help, by saying these bullshit sentiments (or offhand comments) that you find below. These suck. They can ruin our day, if we are depressed, or on the edge of it.
LIST OF STUPID SHIT PEOPLE HAVE SAID TO ME
- You’ll be all better soon
- I bet you’d (or you’ll feel better) once you stop taking some (or all) of those meds
- Have you tried this shake/diet plan that I sell (or my friend sells)?
- Have you tried essential oils?
- Massages really helped my sciatic problem; I bet you’d really feel better if you tried it. I know a guy!
- If you just ate more organic
- Damn GMOs. Monsanto is everywhere, you know?
- Ugh, vaccines. I wonder....
- You’re not handicapped! Why are parking there! I should report you!
- Good thing you are having this next procedure then, it will all finally be over soon!
- I bet that this next doctor will fix everything!
- You think you have problems concentrating! Brain damage? Believe me, I know! I have a two-year-old!
- Don’t you ever get tired of being sick?
- I don’t know how you do it! I would probably just kill myself.
- I’m so amazed at you. You are such an inspiration!
- Wow. It’s, like, just amazing how you can, like, even get dressed in the morning.
- Are you sure you need this next surgery? Seems like you're not even really sick? I mean, you seemed fine yesterday.
- I know how you feel; I once had like, this really bad headache too. Have you tried Excedrin Migraine?
- I don't know....in my medical experience, generally, when the brain protrudes out of the skull and crushes the spine, it only causes pain when it is out of the skull at greater than 5 mm. Yours is slightly over 6mm, close to 7mm, so it should only hurt a little bit. Your complaints of extreme pain seem out of line with the measurement I see on the MRI.
- I’ve never heard of what’s wrong with you, are you sure that’s a thing?
- I think my mom’s sister’s uncle has that. That’s with the toes, right? Wait? No. The arms? No. hold on, let me think. No….I have it! I’m sure of it. I think it’s the head? Yeah, I had this real bad headache once, and they even gave me an injection, and they said I had this thing. It was real bad. I must have it too! I totally get it.
- Memory problems? Tell me about it! I lose my keys all the time! I’d lose my head if wasn’t attached!
- I know it's frustrating that you can't read Tess of d'Ubervilles, but don't you feel lucky that you can still read at all? I mean, lots of people can't read at all.
I have been doing a lot of therapy, to prepare for my next surgery. I have a lot of anxiety to deal with about it. Some of these things, I'm learning, are just that people don't know what to say. Okay. So, then don't say anything. As someone with a lot of new anxiety, I've learned something: shut the fuck up. So, I have been a lot quieter. I am very familiar with foot-in-mouth disease. I suffered from it for 36 of my 37 years. You know what's happened in the last year or so? I've offended far fewer people. If you don't know what to say: listen more, talk less. If you really don't know what to say, but feel you must say something, ASK a question. Sick people love to answer questions about their condition, or how you can help. Just phrase it nicely.
The other thing I've learned is half the things people say are really just to mitigate their own discomfort. Dude, I'm sorry that you are uncomfortable that I'm sick. Get over yourself. If you've got a sick person in your life, and you are uncomfortable, stay away from them. Do them, and yourself a favor, and don't bother them, until you can figure out a way to communicate with them. You are hurting them, more than helping them, if you continue to say this crap. If they aren't calling you, or talking to you, it's because you are continuing to say this nonsense, every time you speak.
Consider this Lesson #1 on how to communicate with sick people. It's still Spring Break (or Brake, as my former students preferred to spell it) out here. Off to go party with the 9 year-old...which means, going to see if we can count some whales, migrating off the coast of this place. Professor Rachel Out :)