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If you have an invisible illness you have likely heard people say, “well, you look fine” or “you just have too much stress.” Despite the cliche sayings about “sticks and stone”–words can hurt. The internet is full of sarcastic sayings and images that put down the people who say things without thinking.
But this doesn’t help anyone.
As Rest Ministries prepares for Invisible Illness Awareness Week (which we sponsor), our goal is not to create a larger divide between those who are ill and those who are healthy, but rather to allow people to communicate better and improve relationships. One way of doing this is through this video of what not to say to one who is ill.
Most people don’t actually want to hurt those they care about–or even the stranger they start speaking to in the grocery store line. If someone knows about our illness and offers advice it is usually because they want to relieve the pain, not add more burdens to us.
And yet, it’s hard to smile some days when we hear, “My mom’s dog has arthritis and she gave him turmeric and now he is running around like a puppy.” (Yes, a young man who was my checker at a clothing store told me this one day.)
I have put together a video featuring a sampling of some of these things we hear. I started to write the script and I could have made a 10 minute video with the scribbled comments I wrote down in just a few minutes. After twenty years of living with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis I have heard most of them.
And this fall I will be adding one to it with the spiritual comments people make about our illness. This will serve as a learning tool for churches and ministries.
This video above is not made with bitterness or to laugh at the expense of those who are trying to reach out to people who are ill.
I hope that those who are ill will know that when they hear these kinds of comments, it’s not personal–it’s just typical. Having someone brush off your disease or tell you that you just need an attitude adjustment is so common we included it in this video. You may wince, but remember this video at times like this and don’t give in to the urge to cry all afternoon because of what someone else may think of your situation.
And if you don’t have a chronic illness, I hope that this video gives you a glimpse into some of the words that sting. One man wrote, “Eye opening to me. My wife suffers from Sjogren’s Syndrome.” This is my hope. . . that it will be eye-opening to those who care about us and give them an opportunity to better understand the emotions involved with a physical illness.
If you like it, please share it! Pin it on Pinterest. Like it on Facebook. Share it on your wall. I have found that during Invisible Illness Week time, many people share things like this and friends begin to comment that they have an invisible illness too that you didn’t even know about. We also have 20 tweets on this very topic you can share as well over at our sister-site, InvisibleIllnessWeek.com.