10 Things to Say to Those With a Chronic Illness

I haven’t felt the need to justify my illness to anyone lately, which has been kind of nice, and very refreshing. It’s nice when people don’t deny that something exists because it makes them uncomfortable. That’s why you haven’t seen as many posts here about chronic illness lately. Believe me, that doesn’t mean that I’m magically better.  (Oh, I wish it would go away, when I just stopped thinking about it.) I ran across this image a while back and thought it was just absolutely perfect.


After showing it to my husband, he agreed with me and said, “Those are almost exactly the things that you say really mean the most to you, and communicate love to you.”

I understand that people are afraid of what they don’t understand, I understand that illnesses scare some people. But why are those who don’t understand choosing to remain in ignorance? I mean seriously, we carry around the “Magic Block of Knowledge” in our pockets everywhere we go. Google it!  Ignorance is not a good enough excuse for unkindness these days. It’s just not.

I thought I’d take a minute and kind of explain what each of these simple statements communicates to me, as someone with chronic illness.

  1. “I believe you.”– Whoa! You do? Wow! I don’t have to justify myself, or spend hours explaining and validating my symptoms to you? You’re not going to accuse me of faking it or exaggerating my symptoms? You’re a pretty cool person!!
  2. .“Can I come over and hang out?– Really? You wanna come over and hang out with lil’ ol’ me? You mean I don’t have get ready, drive somewhere, and walk somewhere, and sit somewhere that’s going to make my symptoms worse? You mean I don’t have to pack up my meds, my water, and my salty/protein snack? We can just sit on the couch and watch a movie or talk, or nap, and I don’t have to do anything? Of course you can come over!!!!
  3.  “Can I bring you food?” or “Can I come over and help make dinner or help with house work?” – You’re kidding? Have I died and gone to heaven? You actually want to come over and help me?! Who are you? Awesome is what you are!!!
  4. “I know how hard you’re trying.” – You’re so sweet. Thank you for not telling to me to try harder or that I’m not good enough. Thank you for understanding that I’m trying to do my best.
  5. Any kind of hello or check in after not seeing them for a while– Oh my goodness! You noticed my absence in everyday life? I’m special, and missed? You understand that my absence doesn’t mean that I hate everyone, but it just means that I haven’t been well. Hello to you too, nice person!!
  6. “You are so strong.” Awww, thanks. *As I’m laying on the couch having not moved except for bathroom breaks and refilling my water* or  *As I’m at some event even though I’d rather be in bed because my body is attacking itself* Thank you for recognizing that living with chronic illness does take strength summoned from…somewhere…deep…down…ya know, I’m not sure where it’s from sometimes.
  7. “I know this was hard for you. Thanks for using your energy to spend time with me.” – Awww, you’re so sweet. This is just…aww. Thanks for acknowledging that my energy is an endangered species, and that if I choose to spend any significant about of time on you, or with you, or for you, that you’re probably worth a little something to me.
  8. “Don’t feel bad if you have to cancel plans with me last minute. I understand.”– Aww, thanks. I appreciate your consideration. (side note: I’ve had so many people awkwardly screw this one up. First of all, informing me of the days that I’m allowed to feel bad on, by letting me know that they only have certain days available, and if I’m not well on one of them that they can’t spend any time with me. Or there’s the ones where we’ve discussed that I might not feel well and sometimes can’t make it to things, and then when I can’t make it to things, people think I’m mad at them. Or there’s, all kinds of assumptions made about the motive behind me canceling. Nope…I just feel like poop and can’t get out of bed. Please don’t get mad at me. I don’t hate you. (At least…probably not…. just kidding…. ;))
  9. Give a hug or just sit and listen– I love hugs. Hugs make me happy. But if you don’t love hugs, don’t hug me and pretend you like them. It’s just weird. I also love a good friendly conversation. I love learning about you. I love sharing about me. I love talking about what my Jesus is teaching me.  I’m not a big fan of rumors or gossip or negative talk though. I’ve got enough drama to keep up with having to deal with my body, I don’t really need to hear about any more.
  10. “I know that this isn’t your fault.” –You do?! Really?! Aww!! Thanks for saying that! It feels like it’s my fault sometimes. Some people try to push the blame on me, (yeah, like I said to my body, “ATTACK” yeah, no.) But I forget that sometimes. Thanks for being sweet and reminding me that you don’t think it’s my fault either.

Thanks for joining me today. I hope that this helps you see into the world of your chronically ill friends a little better. We just wanna be loved like everyone else.

Until we meet again,


Photo credits: The Dysautonomia Project.

Original Phrases: Susie Helford



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