The best way to sympathize is to listen, to ask questions, and to try to understand. I’m not always good at this, myself, but I hope that I can at least try to deconstruct what it’s like from the other end, so that we can all learn how to do it better together.
For example, one of the most popular “sympathetic” attempts people make on me is for them to try to show me how they understand my illness because they know what it’s like to be tired. (This is the unfortunate consequence of having an illness named Chronic Fatigue Syndrome rather than something ominous and obscure-sounding like fibromyalgia, lupus, or even cancer. Before you speak, ask yourself: would you commiserate this way with someone who has any other disabling illness? Why not?)
This type of commiseration happened to me again twice today (as I write this). The second time, I just shook my head and told her it’s not like that at all, rather than let her get away with it. Still, I’m much better at expressing myself through writing.
So without further ado, here is my attempt to answer this phrase via Twitter with a slice of life snapshot, to try to write up a pithy comparison to what a normal health life is like vs. a chronically ill one.
- Being tired all the time because you’re overworking yourself is not the same thing as having a chronic illness, just fyi
- Went to the library on Thursday, found I couldn’t remember the alphabet nor could I see any of the books on the shelves #chronicillness
- On Friday I opened up a book to start reading, couldn’t even read one sentence before I stopped seeing the page #chronicillness
- Was exhausted, sick & teary all day Friday, but my body forgot how to flip the switch for sleep, had insomnia till 4 am. #chronicillness
- Woke up, couldn’t eat without feeling like I was just going to puke it all back up. Am getting good at this nausea thing #chronicillness
- At least I haven’t had heart problems this week. #chronicillness
- If I used Twitter to vent about my health whenever I felt poorly, you’d all get tired of me reaaaal soon. #chronicillness