How to be a better friend and person to someone living with chronic pain & illness

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If you are currently living or have ever lived with a chronic illness or chronic pain then chances are you have encountered plenty of, "Those People." Those People are the ones who without fail will gladly word vomit all over you about the thing they read on the internet, heard about from a coworker, or the thing that worked for them/their spouse/their mom/their effing mailman... you get the idea.

Those People believe that they are doing some kind of public service by telling you exactly how to fix your body/mind because it worked for them or someone else they read about in Teen Vogue or Rolling Stone and oh how brave that person was to talk about their experience publicly!...

So, they are doing a public service, aren't they?

No. They are not. 

A subgroup of Those People are Those Fucking People. This group isn't trying to be helpful at all. They just say all of the wrong things seemingly because they like the hear the sound of their own voice, or read the sound of their own voice on their computer screen.

Want some examples?!

Sure ya do!

Because you want to avoid being one of Those Fucking People, don't you?

Here we go!

  • In response to learning that I've been off of work since June 20th:

"Oh, must be nice!" 

No. No, it's actually not nice. I actually prefer to be working. I know, crazy concept, right? It's true though.

I enjoy working so muchthat I went to college three different times and got three different degrees so that I could have the privilege of working in my field of choice!

The whole "vacation on the couch," thing lasts for about two days before I'm bored and looking for an escape route.

I even found a way to work from my couch so that I could rebuild and rebrand myself in case I can't ever go back to my day job! But thanks for playing!

  • In response to my having just woke up from a nap:

"I wish I could take naps whenever I wanted!"

Oh. I'm sorry. Did I give you the impression that I was napping because I wanted to? Allow me to correct myself.

I don't nap because I want to. I nap a minimum of once per day because Ihave to.

I nap because while I refuse to take narcotic pain medications (we'll get to that later) the medications that I do have to take, just to function at a base level and not be crying in pain, knock me on my ass. Like, falling-asleep-sitting-up-and-in-mid-sentence, knock me on my ass.

When I get that tired and simultaneously have raging cotton mouth and dizziness it feels like I'm on some kind of really unappealing carnival ride. I nap to take the edge off.

So, maybe you'd really love to take a nap but I've been taking at least one coma per day for three months now and I'm petty much over it.

I'm not the only one who has to deal with Those Fucking People, either, believe me. My friend Natasha just happens to be dealing with some pretty severe spinal issues right now also, hers will require surgery. She gets some real gems, too.

Natasha's friend Rachel who has genetic, incurable migraines had some good ones to share as well. Let's review!

From Natasha:

"...Well, you look good."

Yes, my ability to not look like a giant pile of shit negates the fact that I feel like a wild hyena is actively attempting to rip out my spine. (Natasha is witty, no?)

From Rachel:

"Have you been to the doctor?"

"Maybe you need another doctor."

"Have you tried Excedrin Migraine?" 

"Have you sat on the sink and put your feet in water and put a hot towel on your back?"

Oh and my most favorite:"It's just a headache. I get them all the time. Your pain tolerance must be low." 

For the record, I did ask Rachel if she'd had the piercing that's supposed to cure migraines... she has! Still has migraines! *insert biggest eye roll ever*

Other gems:

"Why don't you just smoke weed?" 

"Oh, you shouldn't do that! You should do... [insert every stupid suggestion and/or every previously attempted treatment option here.]"

"Did you try injections? You should try injections."

"Well, I have [insert diagnosis here] too and I'm functioning just fine, so there must be something else wrong with you." 

"You should dance it out. That's what I did."

"You can't get addicted to narcotic pain medsif you're actually in pain.

  1. Oh, I don't know, something about it being illegal was a turnoff for me because, you know, job.

  2. Already did that! Thanks for playing, though!

  3. Yeah I mean I don't know, the specialists frowned upon me injecting my own spine with no previous medical training or x-ray equipment, so we figured I ought to maybe schedule something in advance.

  4. You're right. I'm a total fraud. So is she. Yep, her too. You found us out!

  5. Oh! Why didn't I think of that?! Surely DANCING WILL WORK! I was thinking maybe I should restrict movement since my back went out on me whilst I was standing up from the toilet, but DANCING!? You're brilliant! (I might have felt murderous toward that person.)

  6. Really?! Here I was worried for nothing the whole time! Hit me with some morphine, I've got a dragon to chase!

Here's the thing. The simple secret of loving someone or interacting with someone who has an invisible illness and/or chronic pain, is this:

All you have to say...

...and it works for pretty much any situation...

is...

"That really sucks. I'm sorry that you're dealing with that, it sounds like Hell. Is there anything I can do to help?" 

That's it.

Oh, and laugh with them when they run into one of Those Fucking People, because really if we don't laugh, we'll cry, and we can't just sit around crying all day every day.

Laughing is better.

Thanks for indulging me.