Before you try to offer medical advice to your friends and family members this holiday season here are a few things to consider.
1. For those of us with chronic illness, being sick is our full time job. Most of us spend hours on the internet researching symptoms, treatments, and special therapies. We’ve tried countless different treatments, medications, and doctors.
2. When you approach someone with chronic illness,even with good intentions, and tell them that they just have to try this treatment that magically healed your brother’s uncle’s cousin, it comes across as very disrespectful. This is what it sounds like to them, “I don’t actually know any thing about this treatment, the cost of it, or the side effects, but it worked for this person, so I don’t know why you won’t try it.” Treatments are expensive, exhausting, and don’t work the same way for everyone. Nearly every treatment solution has a long list of possible side effects. When you jump in and try to control our treatment plan it can make us very frustrated.
Instead of insisting that we try your new found treatment option, try this:
1. Ask about our current treatment plan. Ask how it’s working for us and how we came upon it in the first place. Ask because you care and because you genuinely want to know, not because you want a platform for your treatment suggestion.
2. Ask us how we’re feeling. Again, genuinely ask because you want to know, not because you want to suggest your idea.
3. Offer to help. No, not with your treatment suggestion, but in our day to day lives. Ask if we need help cleaning the house, making dinner, or even just ask to come visit and keep us company. That kind of help is much more welcome and appreciated than unsolicited medical advice.
4. Unless you’ve researched the treatment you’re going to suggest, and know for sure that it hasn’t been tried already, don’t suggest it. If your friend or family member has had chronic illness for long, they’ve probably tried it or heard of it, and they don’t need you to remind them about how it didn’t work. There are plenty of other ways you can help.
Those of us with chronic illness don’t want your magic beans or your special potion. We want your friendship and we want your love. Kindness and consideration are the best gifts you can give to your loved one with chronic illness.
Let’s wrap this post up with some good ol’ snarky Chronic Illness Cat!