The Broad is Back!

March 30, 2018

What Not To Say to Autoimmune Patients And Then What to Say

I just reblogged a piece by a friend who has an aggressive stage IV cancer on what to say to folks with cancer.

The flip to this, of course, is what not to say.

My disease most likely won’t kill me, so my situation is not as, well, terminal, but as someone with an invisible illness, I’d like to give a list of things not to say to folks who suffer from autoimmune diseases and other invisible illnessess.

  1. “You don’t look sick.” Thanks. I try hard not to. And my symptoms are pain, dryness, fatigue. For me, a slab of Maybelline, a handful of meds, and I’m good to go. Most days I look “healthy”. And most people who make this comment use a tone that implies that I’m not really sick because I “look” healthy.  On the other hand, telling me I look good is an entirely different matter. Lie to me all you want!
  2. “Autoimmune diseases aren’t real.” Seriously. People have said this to me. To them I usually say, Google it.
  3. “You just need to eat better/vegan/take vitamins.” Because of my illness, I voluntarily eat better than about 85% of Americans. And I take vitamins. My body is attacking itself. Becoming vegan isn’t going to cure me or the 50 million others with autoimmune diseases. In fact, the autoimmune protocol diet, first developed by the Mayo Clinic, cuts legumes and grains out of the diet. Most of us already cut out inflammatory foods because dietary changes help, but diet alone won’t do it.
  4. “There’s no such thing. What you really have is _____.”  No, there is such a thing as Sjogren’s syndrome (or fibromyalgia/lupus/RA/ad nauseum). Yes, people have told me that I have a “made up disease”. See Google comment above.
  5. “Hope you get better soon!” While the wishes are lovely, I will most likely never get better. Some days are better than others, and I’m trying to maintain the status quo, but this comment, while well-meaning, shows a disregard for the seriousness of the illnesses.

On the whole, don’t assume you know more about what’s going on with us than we do. Unless you are a rheumatologist. The first time I went to my new GP and new psychiatrist, they had to google Sjogren’s before they came in the room! Most medical professionals don’t know what some of these illnesses are because they are so rare. Just because you read an article online, don’t assume you know all there is to know.

So what should you say or maybe do?

  1. Anything that shows real sympathy is nice to hear, from “I’m sorry you have to deal with this” to “Dude, that sucks!”
  2. None of us really mind the question, “what is Sjogren’s (or any of the other invisible illnesses) and what are the symptoms?”  Or maybe Google it on your own and then ask us questions. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone be interested.
  3. “Can I carry that for you?”  I hate to ask for help, but when it’s offered spontaneously I’ll often say, “ok, thanks!”
  4. What I really love are friends that don’t give up on me. I’m not talking framily-level friends. They never give up. But many times I have to say no to invitations. Friends who steadily keep asking, take my rejections in stride, and don’t get irritated with me truly warm my heart (shout out Erin Cronican! I love you!)  When I’m working, there are days it’s all I can do to get to work, do my job, and come home.
  5. When our flare ups are really bad and we miss work/school/whatever, the offer of help is always welcome. Many of us are stubborn gits (or that just might be me), but there are times when yes, I really could use a half gallon of almond milk, thank you.

I hope this helps you. It certainly got some stuff off my chest.

 

Advertisements

4 Comments »

  1. I definitely agree with being offered help it’s so much easier to just accept it rather than request it yourself

    Comment by fizzstah — April 1, 2018 @ 6:25 pm |Reply

    • Thanks for your comment! Sorry about the slow response. You just today showed up in my comments section. WordPress is being weird!

      Comment by maggiec — May 20, 2018 @ 8:33 pm |Reply

  2. Nicely crafted lists. Thank you!

    Yesterday my longtime psychologist pressed me on how I’m asking for help when I need it. As I responded, I was incredibly grateful to those who’ve offered help — I’m not too good at asking, but those friends provided answers.

    Comment by puffinchronicles — April 3, 2018 @ 12:43 pm |Reply

    • Thanks for your comment! Sorry this didn’t show up as a comment till today! What’s going on, WordPress? Hope your journey becomes slightly easier.

      Comment by maggiec — May 20, 2018 @ 8:32 pm |Reply


RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: