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The #1 Question NOT to Ask People with Chronic Illness This Holiday Season

The #1 Question 

NOT to Ask People with Chronic Illness 

This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for family gatherings, and family gatherings inevitably lead to probing questions about everyone’s lives. 

Just as every senior in college hates to be asked about their plans after graduation, or if they have a job “lined up,” and newlyweds hate to be asked when they plan to have children, there are questions that people with chronic illnesses are used to being asked, and get tired of answering.   

Every family get-together without fail, all the relatives who once pinched cheeks and tousled hair now gather ‘round me and ask “How do you feel?”

I hate this question, and I’ll give you five reasons why, because I understand that at the surface it seems quite innocent, and reasonable to ask such a question.  

But I am being singled out by it.  No one else is being asked how he or she feels.  

My friends and family are asking because they know about my health issues and they want an update on how things are going.  

But here’s the thing; I have a chronic illness.  

That means some days are bad, some are good, and some are just ok, but this doesn’t go away.  No matter how I am feeling physically, I am still feeling like myself, because dealing with this illness is just a part of my life. 

1. I don’t always want to explain that though. 

    And I don’t always want to have to discuss my doctors, or my current treatment plans,
    Or medications,
    Or pain level. 

    Much of my life is consumed by discussing, and managing, my chronic illness.   

    When I’m with my family I want to focus on spending time together. 

    The medical nonsense I deal with everyday is the last thing I want to discuss at a holiday Party.  

     That would be like me bringing up your boss.....
      Or your in laws.....
    ....... Or your taxes.....

    It’s no fun to go through and it’s really no fun to talk about.  

    I don’t think my loved ones realize how precious my time with them is and how much it truly Means to me.  It takes so much effort for me to get dressed and washed and out of the house, That I don’t get to socialize very often. 

    When I do,
    I value that time out with loved ones more than anything else in this world.  

    Having a chronic illness teaches you many lessons and one is what you truly value in life.  

    I value time with the people I love,
    So when I finally have that time,
    Spending it discussing an emotional and stressful topic like my health seems wasteful.

2. Because I find the topic of my health so emotional and stressful, I have a hard time expressing myself when I am asked about it.   

        This leaves me feeling flustered, embarrassed, and on the spot. 

        I feel like I don’t have words or that I don’t know the answer to questions I’m asked
        And I feel that I look stupid in front of people I care about. 

        It’s not that I am ill informed of my own conditions.  

        I simply feel emotionally overwhelmed
        If I am not expecting a medical question in a social situation
        If I am particularly worried about a certain issue. 
        There are mental or cognitive effects of my medications,
        Pain level,
        And other conditions,
        That can leave me feeling tired, confused, or unable to find words. 

        I am always in a constant fear on being judged because of so many past negative experiences of
        And friends
        Being cruel to me because of my illness.  

        I am always on the alert when I am symptomatic or when I am asked a question. 
        Basically anytime any aspect of my illness may be discovered. 

        There are only about three or four people I truly trust with my illness, so a holiday party is not a
        Safe place even if it is all family and close friends.  

3. People ask just to be polite.   

         They ask the question,
         But when I start to answer,
         Their eyes glaze over.  
         If you don’t care, don’t ask! 

         That simple. 

         We all get tangled up in these social norms and start asking people questions just because we
         Think we should and not because we actually want any kind of answer. 

         If I tell them anything too complicated they get bored
         And if I tell them anything to sad,
         They get super uncomfortable and don’t know what to do or say.  

         The only good answer to the question “how do you feel”
         When most people ask it,
         Is either “better”, “good”, “ok”, or “fine”.

And this, my friends, is how people with chronic illnesses have become great and habitual liars.   

 We lie because so many of you, our dearest loved ones, want us to. 

You implore us with your eyes to give you good news, and you make your discontent clear if we try to express the truth. 

 Chronic illness doesn’t make for good holiday party small talk, but we know that.  

 It was you that asked..... 

We want to make you happy, even if we aren't feeling well, or are feeling very upset about our current health situation.

4. Everyone always asks the same question.   

        Doesn’t anyone have anything else to ask me about? 

        There is more to me than my illness. 
        I have a brain in my head.  

        I’m still the same person I’ve always been. 

        I feel like I’m only asked questions about my health now,
        Like it defines me to a lot of family and friends,
        That they don’t know what to ask me about because I have few things going on in my life. 

        I’ve had to focus on my health, but I am still a complete human being with varied interests.

5. When it comes down to it, everyone wants to hear that you’re better.   

        And that’s the biggest reason I hate this question. 

        I wish I was better too,
        But I can’t tell you I am,
        Because I’m not. 

        This is chronic. 

        I am most likely,
        Without serious medical breakthroughs,
        Going to be like this forever. 

        I am not getting better. 

        That’s harder for me than it is for you, so please stop asking. 

I’ve thought of some questions to ask instead of "How are you feeling?"

I know I would appreciate being asked some of these questions instead, and my guess is that your chronically ill friends and family will feel the same.  Try some of these out as you spend time with loved ones over the holiday season.

Have you heard this joke…..?
What are you watching on Netflix?
Did you know…..?
What books are you reading? 
Have you seen any good movies lately?
Have you heard about what happened in the news…….?

What it means for you and your Holiday Plans

I'm not mad at anyone who asks me how I am feeling, and I don't think most chronically ill people are.
We understand that the question is an attempt to express concern, but for the reasons above, it really isn't a good question to ask, especially in large social situations.
No one likes to be asked the same question again and again at the same party especially if the topic is emotional or stressful.
Just avoid the question.

Chronic Illness Warriors!

If you are a Chronic Illness warrior, I'd love to hear your opinion of "How are you Feeling?"
Do you get asked this question a lot?
Do you have any Family Gathering or Holiday Party stories involving your Chronic Illness?
Are there questions you prefer being asked?

Let me know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post please share!!!

Wishing you Healing Hugs And Hope


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