I was in the grocery store the other day and ran into a lady that I had worked with years ago in a medical office. We both exchanged pleasantries and then she asked, “What do you do now? Where are you working?” I don’t want to take the time to explain my various ailments, and frankly, it’s no one’s business, so I just say, “Nothing.”
This question always makes me uncomfortable. I automatically clench my teeth (and my pearls when I’m wearing them) as soon as the sentence leaves their mouths. It floats in the air for a few seconds before it smacks me in the face and offends my ears. Her mouth wrinkles into that sarcastic, snarky smile as she says, “Must be nice … ”
No, Rhonda, it’s not nice. There’s nothing nice about being trapped in a body that doesn’t work like it used to. I know what she was thinking, “You’re just lazy.”
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No, We’re Not Lazy
It’s a common misconception, maybe because some of us look perfectly fine. Although it might be easier on us mentally, we don’t wear flashing neon signs alerting others that we do, in fact, have an illness.
A lot of people who live day to day with chronic conditions, such as myself, have a limited supply of energy. Every day, we have to pick and choose what activity we’re going to spend that energy on. One trip to the grocery store can use up all of that limited energy for the day, and then some. Everyone has their own limitations and supply of energy.
We Are Not Seeking Attention
One of the biggest misconceptions about individuals with a chronic illness is the idea that we are attention seekers or hypochondriacs. Although I am not yet 50, I frequently use a cane as a mobility aide. This guarantees a steady stream of confused faces with that same sarcastic, snarky smile, which makes me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Using a mobility aide, wearing a brace, researching a symptom, or frequent trips to the doctor’s office are not signs of hypochondria. They are, however, signs of a person who needs patience and understanding.
These are just two of the many misunderstandings that swarm around chronic illness sufferers. Have some patience with those of us who have a chronic condition. Be kind, don’t jump to judgment, and please don’t be a Rhonda.