Part Two of what not to say to people with chronic health problems!
I asked one of my clients with multiple health issues if she had anything contribute on this topic and she instantly responded: "Suck it up."
I am grateful I haven't heard this one myself! This one is pretty rude and inconsiderate. I mean our only option while in a health crisis is to suck it up so do we really need to hear it from others? I clearly remember one day last month I was in so much pain and had such a terrible week that I was begging my doctor to put me in a coma and just wake me up when I was better. The last thing I would have wanted my doctor to say is "suck it up" and I definitely wouldn't want to hear it from loved ones either.
Let's see, what would be a better choice of three words. I would go with "I love you" or if that is too strong, "I care about you." Have some compassion. Speak from your heart. Listen with the intention of understanding not responding. Communicate your concerns or worries about their health and open up a dialogue to understanding each other better. I am highly aware of the impact my illness has on loved ones because I grew up feeling helpless that my dad was severely ill so even though I try to protect my loved ones by keeping a lot to myself, I know that they still struggle with it sometimes too. Because of this I think it is really important for both people to communicate how they are feeling. Be kind with your words because most likely they are already extremely hard on themselves...most people are these days. You will be on the right track as long as you don't say....
"It will get better, just be patient." The problem with this statement is when you are talking about a chronic illness....well, it's chronic. Some illnesses will get better but please don't say this to someone that has a lifelong condition. We all hope it will get better, but it also may not. If someone has been struggling with health issues for years, this comment is also going to hurt a little. I can guarantee you that anyone with a chronic health problem has the patience of a saint! They have most likely been lost in the medical system having patience with doctors, nurses, test results, experimenting with prescriptions/diets/supplements, weekly physical therapy, patience with pain, fatigue, and their limiting body....trust me, they are patient. They don't need to be told to be patient and they don't need false hope it will get better.
So, what could you say instead? This one actually seems like a sweet optimistic statement so it can be confusing on what you could possibly say instead. My advice is to say something that will help them focus on the positive. "What brings you joy these days?" "What would you enjoy doing that is within your limits?" "How can I bring some laughter into your life?" All of these statements are honoring what they have shared with you, and you are searching for ways you can help brighten up their day. I don't think you can go wrong with these whether you are talking with someone who has a chronic illness or who is perfectly healthy!
Illness Etiquette Miniseries: