During the last month, I haven’t been feeling amazing. I’ve experienced a totally unexplained increase in MS symptoms. This is very perplexing since I’ve stuck to my routine one hundred percent. I’ve religiously engaged in all of the healing protocols and therapies that have always worked. That includes HBOT, IVs, Keto Diet, daily walks, healthy amounts of sleep, and gentle movement.
What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick
One thing that keeps coming up while I’m resting and recuperating is dealing with people while I’m ill. How people react when you don’t feel well can be a very tricky thing. While everyone means well, not everyone knows the most appropriate thing to say. That’s why I’m writing this guide on What Not to Say to Someone Who’s Sick.
Best of Intentions in a Tricky Situation
In my experience, people have the best of intentions and no one wants to say something hurtful. But when we are sick, we feel uncomfortable in our bodies, and our friends and loved ones can pick up on that. They may even internalize our discomfort and feel off balance themselves.
You’re So Lucky!
When I start to feel an increase in symptoms, the first thing I do is increase rest and decrease stress. I cancel as much as I can so that I can listen to my body and rest when I feel tired. Still, a month later I’m in the same boat with the same symptoms. Very frustrating, but I’m determined to get well and feel even better than I did before this started. So you can imagine my surprise when someone told me I was “so lucky” to get to rest. Trust me, I’d rather be writing books for you and going on a long book tour than stay cooped up in my house dealing with MS symptoms.
But You Look Fine
If you’ve heard the term “Invisible Disability” you probably know better than to say “you look fine” to someone who’s feeling sick and under the weather. A more supportive comment might be, “You look great, but I hear that there’s a lot more to it than that and that you’re suffering right now.”
You’re Feeling Better!
Some friends want you to feel better so badly that every time they see you they say, “you’re feeling better?!” It comes out as more of a statement than a question. That’s because they’re so scared for you that they feel tremendous anxiety within themselves. This means they care, even if they don’t say the right thing. This reaction is about them and has nothing to do with you, so there’s no need to take it personally.
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I Thought Those Were Spa Treatments
Recently, when asking about HBOT, someone said to me, “I thought those were spa treatments.” Anything that minimizes a person’s healing path is not a supportive comment and is most likely better left unsaid. Again, this is about the other person, not about you!
Giving advice is a tricky thing. And it’s best not to give advice even if you have fantastic intentions. Remember, someone who is sick is dealing with a lot of people, not just you. Multiply your advice x100 people, plus medical professionals, and healers, and then reconsider. If you can’t refrain from giving advice, look inside to see whether your impulse is coming from a compulsion. If it’s not, you’ll easily be able to let it go.
Asking About Symptoms
This is another challenging topic. Don’t ask people who are sick about their symptoms. This might seem like common sense to most people, but again, common sense can be lost when people are nervous or uncomfortable.
What to Say to Someone Who’s Sick
More people than ever that I know are sick right now. All of these folks have friends and loved ones that don’t know what to say to them because dealing with illness is AWKWARD and makes people very uncomfortable. It’s a bit of a taboo subject like sex, politics, and money. I’m writing this to give you perspective from the inside, and help everyone communicate better!
The Perfect Thing to Say to Someone Who’s Sick
Thankfully, all of the above comments are very minimal in comparison to the incredibly supportive network I have of people who know how to say the perfect thing in this situation. My husband somehow knows exactly what to say every time. Additionally, we have friends who send over notes like this, “I’m so sorry you are feeling bad. How frustrating for you. If you ever just want me to pick up lunch and come over or take a walk let me know. I’m good at last minute plans. Hope you feel better soon.” That is the perfect thing to say to someone who’s feeling sick!
If you’re not feeling well, or have experienced illness, what helpful or unhelpful things have people said to you? Leave a comment and let me know!
Before my cancer diagnosis I have no doubt that I often said unskillful things to people – either trying to impress with my empathy or out of discomfort with not knowing what to say.
Now I try to not judge, even when someone says something that feels hurtful. My own sense of what’s behind a person’s comment has become finely tuned and I can detect sincere concern regardless of another person’s communication savvy.
Still, I’d like to add two more items (that I hear routinely) to your list of what not to say. One is advice to start a gratitude practice. My feelings in facing my death are deeply personal and complex. So a person (most often this advice comes from someone I barely know) suggesting that I take time daily tally the things I’m grateful for feels intrusive and simplistic.
The 2nd is to tell me about someone they know who fought hard and beat the odds. All I can then think is that if am unable to change the course of my disease despite my best efforts, that the person will think I just didn’t try hard enough or have the right attitude.
In situations where I feel comments are a glib response, absent of genuine concern, I don’t hesitate to be politely dismissive. It’s been a way for me to reclaim authority when another person strangely presumes the role of my adviser.
Robin, this is one of the best comments I’ve ever received on this website (and there are 90,000 comment here). Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this with me ❤️