At a recent party, Jenni of ChronicBabe had the unfortunate experience of meeting a woman who couldn’t comprehend the complexities and frustrations of chronic illness. The article title sums it up well: “To teach? To shush? To punch? What do you do when confronted with a naysayer?”
Here’s an excerpt from the frustrating conversation:
“‘Really,’ [the naysayer] said. ‘Do you know anyone who has Crohn’s or colitis? I don’t know how people live like that. Their days are just ruled by their health. I don’t see the point.’
‘Urm, what do you mean? The point of living? The point of my web site?’ I asked.
‘I just don’t know how they exist,’ she replied. ‘I know this one woman with migraines and she just complains all the time and takes naps every day. She just needs to stop talking about it and go see someone to get rid of it. Come on. And those people with fibromyalgia, I guess it can be intense for short periods, but really.'”
How could someone be so insensitive? Sure, the woman didn’t know that she was insulting Jenni personally, but how could she not see the point of trying to live well with chronic illness? I’m angry, but I can’t really fault her. Unless you live it, you just can’t know what it’s like.
I’m proud of Jenni. Even if the naysayer didn’t get it, perhaps she caught a glimpse of the impact of chronic illness on women’s lives. As annoying as it is, part of helping people who have chronic illness is teaching non-chronics that we’re not just lazy complainers.
Deciding what and how much to disclose is a frequent struggle. It may be a comfort to know that when you do tell others about your life with illness, you are helping them understand a little bit about every other chronic that they know.
I’m also proud of Jenni for recognizing a losing battle and walking away. You can only try to teach so much and a giving glimpse is better than letting ignorance fester.