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When Telling Someone They Look Great Becomes an Insult

Friday, January 18, 2013

Take just a moment to read this short blog/article. Really consider the implications of what the author says.


I've been using the same imagery of linking the flu to what it feels like to have Gastroparesis, for nearly 2 years. It knocks people off their feet for a moment while the consider the implications. When you have the flu do you feel like doing normal activities? Do you want to take out the garbage, vacuum, cook or even smell food, go to work, play with your kids, or even stand upright? Usually that's a resounding NO. I've had a pretty bad case of Gastroparesis since July 2010, but I've had mild symptoms of it since I was an infant - over 31 YEARS of not being able to eat like everyone else around me. I was yelled at as a kid for not finishing food, for not eating fast enough, or because a single taste of some foods made me sick to my stomach. It has gotten worse over time, but the last few years the condition has become downright dangerous. Even so, I am still berated and harassed by a few people because I don't eat like others. Some people refuse to believe there is anything wrong with me because I 'look fit and healthy'... because having 11 medical conditions that are invisible illnesses isn't enough to make them see and believe how impossible it is for me to even stand some days. Yet many times I have gone out of my way and even risked my safety for someone else.

The words you choose to say might have one meaning in your mind, but mean something entirely different to someone else. Be careful of what you choose to say, and if you don't know what to say then be willing to admit it. It is better to admit ignorance than to pretend to understand. I am so sick of people saying I look perfectly healthy when every part of my body is screaming in pain, I can barely eat, and I know that most of my conditions are incurable, untreatable, or have failed to respond to treatments. I am not healthy and if they really looked in my eyes for a moment they might realize how much those words just hurt me, but instead I feign positivity and acceptance of their ignorance because I don't want them to feel hurt. I deal with hurt every day of my life, so I can take a little more, right?

Take note of what people say to you when you feel sick, depressed, hurt, or let down. What makes you feel better and what makes you feel worse? What do you want to say in response when you appreciate or hate what they said? If you have a friend with a medical condition, take a moment to really think before you speak. Sometimes just giving someone a hug and saying you're there for whatever they need means more than any other pseudo-supportive comment you can come up with. And please do not try to commiserate with them, because support doesn't mean one-upping someone, it means allowing them a chance to explain their pain. If they need to talk about what's bothering them, don't say how you've felt the same before because (this) happened to you. If they understand the same, when you need the support they'll sit back and listen to you.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Some people will never "get it". Many of my patients when I worked as RN did not look sick. But they were REALLY sick. It used to irk me when a family member said that "they look good today, they must be getting better". It's really hard sometimes to not say anything to them.
    I keep you in my prayers.

    1669 days ago
    I can totally relate. I used to have a Choledochal Cyst. It is a cyst that is growing on your gal bladder and common bile duct. So mine was so large that it encompassed the common bile duct. Making an organ that is supposed to be pencil sized, hot dog bun sized. And many times it would leave me with flu like symptoms.
    So anyways this woman at church said I just needed to eat healthier. Mind you this woman fed her infant and young children, hot dogs, McDonald's french fries and soda. Among other things.
    I also heard that I didn't look sick. I knew the fear of having an attack strike out of no where.
    I hope that they find a cure for this disease. Mine was removed with surgery
    1672 days ago
    I can totally relate to that, especially with living with cancer. I have not lost my hair with this chemo, but it makes me awfully tired because of the low blood counts, and you know about my pain issues also; in some ways, my cancer is like an "invisible" illness.

    Sometimes when we hear, "but you don't look sick", or "you look so good", sometimes it feels like it implies (it does to me anyway) that I should be working instead of being on disability. People don't realize sometimes what it takes when I am having a bad day just to make myself presentable to leave the house, or that I only look wide awake because I have concealer hiding the dark circles under my eyes.

    Also, when I hear comments like that, it kind of feels like they are not taking my illness seriously. It's not that I am looking for sympathy, but I feel like they forget I am living with a condition for which there is no cure.
    1672 days ago

    Comment edited on: 1/18/2013 3:43:55 PM
    I know a little about intended compliments that are insulting and some about invisible conditions but nothing I've experienced prepares me to come close to understanding what you go through. But you're a wonderful person and a great friend and I'm so happy SP allowed us to connect! Anytime you need to vent you can send a letter to my inbox. I may be slow about responding but I always read and appreciate what you have to say. emoticon
    1672 days ago
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