My last two posts have made a slight mockery of the public in their approach to me and my illnesses (see You’ll Chuckle at These Things Some Christians Have Told Me About My Illness and Funny Things People Have Done to Me Because of My Illness Pt. 2.) I make no apologies. However, some people have requested I make a list of the things you should say/do around someone with a chronic illness.
1. Tell me about your disease/how are you feeling?
Sometimes, it’s apparent when someone has an illness. Wheelchair. Oxygen. Or the bald head we all associated with the “C” word. Clean. People shave their heads to be clean. Right?
Other times, chronically ill people look “normal,” even if they’re battling a terminal disease. If you’re curious about anyone on the spectrum of sickos, feel free to ask us about it. Respectfully. Many of us love to educate people about our diseases. You may also find it enjoyable to garner knowledge you didn’t previously possess.
Side note: There are other cripples who don’t enjoy being asked about themselves. They will be offended at everything you say. Don’t bother with these grumps. Instead, poke them with a stick and laugh as they try, but fail, to chase you down.
Once you know a person (or they become a friend) it’s important to ask them how they are “feeling” if you want to know the state of their health. To me, there’s a difference between the questions “How are you doing?” and “How are you feeling?”
When you ask a person how they’re “feeling,” you’re inquiring about their sickness. Sometimes, we like to share our latest struggles. Other times, we may redirect the conversation. It’s okay to ask. It’s up to us how much we share. Also, chances are if you ask us “How are you doing?” we’ll respond with the general state of our lives. As everyone does. We are more than our illnesses. There is a soul inhabiting this shack made of straw.
2. Can I come hang out with you?
YES PLEASE. For many of us, it takes a lot of energy and pain to prepare to go out, handle transportation, and the energy drain of interaction in large groups. Therefore, we can’t stay as long as we would like at a party, a church service, or a girls’ day out. It’s loads easier when you come to us. Plus, you get one on one time with us and our awesomeness.
3. Bring stuffed animals and chocolate
When you come over and want to bring something, we appreciate a plethora of things. Stuffed animals. Chocolate. Fuzzy socks. Diamond rings. A Ferarri. The necessities of life.
I have been fortunate enough to have my friends, and the church, continuously give me flowers, food, and little gifts. Chronic pain patients rarely receive gifts after their initial diagnosis. It’s nice, every once in a while, when a friend brings me a thoughtful gift. Pro tip: don’t bring flowers. We don’t like to watch them die. It’s like a metaphor for our lives…
4. Listen/be understanding
A good friend of mine, who is a caregiver to her sick family members, recently asked for my advice. She asked how she should approach him in reference to his pain. I told her to listen and just be there. However, don’t hover. The wind from your helicopter blades becomes uncomfortable.
The very best thing a friend can do for me is listsn. Not give advice. Not say they know how it feels. Just listen. I know this is hard, especially for family. Everyone wants to fix me. I want that too. However, in the meantime, I want to talk about my experiences.
I also want to be there for you.
Some of my friends will share a couple of hardships they are experiencing in life and then take it back. “I shouldn’t be complaining. You’re the wrong person to say this to. My problems don’t compare to yours.” Stop it. Let me be there for you too. I’m still a person. I still love you. I want to be involved in every part of your life, the good and the bad.
5. Ask about our hobbies/treat us like normal human beings
The very BEST thing to say or do is treat us like a normal person. Ask what hobbies we have. Ask us about our favorite places in town. Ask us about our favorite Netflix and YouTube shows/channels. Many of us spend hours of our lives staring at the screen to distract from the pain/discomfort of living in our bodies. We are the “foodies” of Netflix. They need to make a name for that. Screenies, maybe?
Thus, if you want the latest scoop on what series to watch, we have all the answers.
For more funny on what not to say, say, and just to be bossed around by a sick person, watch below.