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What Not to Say

They always tell you growing up, "if you don't have something nice to say, it's better to not say anything at all." This teaches children to think before they speak. It teaches them that words can hurt. However, there are cases where we do not realize that our words hurt or are hurting someone else. There are cases where we think what we are saying is helping them to feel better. There are cases where we feel like our joke was funny and may help lighten the mood.

Those of us in the chronic illness community know these phrases and jokes all too well. We understand that if you are not ill, you may not realize that the things you have said hurt, but that doesn't make them sting any less. It just means we may not always say something to you.

I've compiled a list of common sayings people use to try to make us feel better, however they do quite the opposite.

  • "But you don't look sick"

  • "It could be worse"

  • "Just eat healthy, you'll be fine"

  • "Your body must hate you"

  • "You're too young to be this sick"

  • "You are too young to be in this much pain"

  • "Just do some yoga"

  • "Just breathe"

  • "Just do something to destress."

  • "Other people are worse off than you"

  • "You should try _____(fill in the blank)____, it helped my friend."

Things you may want to say instead:

  • "I wish I knew what to say to make you feel better, but I'm here to listen."

  • "Can I bring you anything to make life a little easier?"

  • "I know you are trying hard."

  • "How can I support you?"

  • "I understand if you need to cancel plans, is there something that would be easier on you we could do?"

  • "You are doing everything you can."

We know that jokes and things are meant to cheer us up. For example, when I got my most recent diagnosis, one of my friends said, "geez, tell your body to stop getting all these illnesses." She started laughing and I gave a nervous laugh because I knew she thought it was funny, but in reality, it hurt. I wish I could just tell my body to stop being ill. I know I don't always look sick. I've tried yoga. I know there are people out there who feel worse than I do, but in a moment where I am flaring, that is not what I need to hear and just because people are sicker than me, does not make my illness and how I am feeling any less valid.

Remember, the adult version of "if you don't have anything nice to say, it's better to not say anything at all" is "think before you speak."

Yours truly,


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