are you afraid of complaining about your chronic illness

Complaining about your chronic illness

Are you afraid of complaining about your chronic illness? Are there times you hold back because you are worried about what the other person will think?

I don’t talk much about my health problems often, not even to my spouse. In fact he complains about his pain more than I do and he’s perfectly healthy. When he was complaining the other day about how much he hurt after playing basketball I realized how ridiculous it was that he feels he can complain about pain he inflicted on himself while I, who feels horrible pain at all time, say nothing. The fact that I don’t feel I can complain is my fault though, not his. I am afraid of complaining. Sometimes I get too used to faking well and I never let my guard down and acknowledge my broken body. I try to follow the “fake it until you make it” principle, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes the pain just takes over everything, and faking it or having a positive attitude can’t fix what is broken. The truth is though that sometimes I want faking it to work. I hold onto the hope that if I fake being well enough then maybe it will eventually come true.

Why are sick people so afraid of complaining? Because we have chronic health problems we are used to not being taken seriously. We know that most people don’t care about our chronic conditions, and yet we are supposed to care about other people when they get sick. I for one am tired of feeling that I’m not socially allowed to acknowledge how miserable I feel on a regular basis. Normal healthy people complain all the time about their health, but those who have chronic illnesses are just expected to never talk about it? That is backwards. Sure none of us want to be around that person, the person who is always complaining about how hard their life is, but surely there is a balance between the two.

Too often I hold back because I don’t want to burden the other person, but no one holds back in fear of placing the burden on me. I’ve often listen to other people talk about their (temporary) illness and I’m very sympathetic because being sick is hard no matter who you are. Now it’s my turn to be listened to. There is nothing wrong with saying “I am not doing very well because I am hurting and I am exhausted.” Just because that is true for me more often then it is in a healthy person doesn’t invalidate the complaint. My goal from now on is to let myself share how I feel instead of pretending everything is awesome all the time.

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6 thoughts on “Complaining about your chronic illness

  1. I’m with you on the part about feeling like a burden. I feel like if I complain, no one knows what to do/say anymore because there really isn’t much left to do or say. Those “get well” wishes have run out since everything is “chronic” now. And, I’m not really complaining about THAT–I’m just saying I wish I could vent every now and then without feeling like I’m piling up complaint after complaint on another person; I do that enough on myself.

  2. I think it’s actually a healthy thing that you made a conscious choice to be more up front about when you aren’t feeling well.

    Ever since I’ve gotten to the stage in which my “invisible” illness is not so invisible anymore I have found I can’t hide it anymore even when I want to, so I kind of turned over a new leaf because what I found out was that the idea that not complaining will make us more accepted by others is pretty much an illusion.

    People are going to think what they want anyway based on their own personal biases, good or bad, and that says more about them than it does about us, so we might as well live in the moment and laugh when we’re happy, cry when we’re sad, sleep when we’re tired and eat when we’re hungry. I think I’m coping better now that I’ve stopped hiding how I feel as much. I figure if someone doesn’t like me then there isn’t much I can do about it because really when you really think about it if somebody feels negatively towards you it really resides within them; it’s how they’re taking the interaction.

    I don’t even like the paradigm “positive” versus “negative” because it’s a very black and white way of thinking and intrinsically places a judgment on feelings or how you express them and there shouldn’t be one. It’s all just a part of the human condition.

    I really believe that there’s a function for talking about things that feel bad to us. It makes one less alone with it and I’ve found that it can help one to organize and process it in one’s own head and that it allows one to move to the problem-solving stage and resolution. Then before you know it you are feeling more “up” again.

    It may also be that once those around you get more used to you saying how you’re feeling openly that they won’t expect you to keep quiet about it as much and won’t feel as threatened by the days when you’re having a hard time.

    It might make others more tolerant and patient and maybe it will even educate them as to what people with chronic illnesses really go through on a daily basis and get the well people in our lives to appreciate that inner strength more than they did when you/we suffered in silence.

    1. I love your comment! I love the idea of not seeing things as positive or negative, that really is too black and white for me (I hate black and white thinking)

  3. I know others get tired of hearing how badly I feel. I have gotten so I don’t mention it and only say something if I’m specifically asked about it. Most people can see the pain on my face and really don’t want to know. They just don’t understand. Unless they can feel what I feel, they really can’t relate.

    1. You’re right that people can’t relate. Sometimes all I want from people is a little understanding, but it can be hard to get.

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