Most people do not care about chronic illness. That is a fact, but why don’t people care? The older I get the more I realize that life is hard and most of us are just doing our best to get through and enjoy ourselves a little on the way. There are numerous bad things happening all around the world that we get bombarded with every day. Every time we turn on the news someone is getting murdered, children are starving, somebody amazing is dying of cancer, children get kidnapped, a town is wiped out by a tornado, terrorists are blowing up innocent people, and it goes on and on. It’s a rough world and many of us deal with it by shutting out the bad things. We can’t cry about all the bad things happening because we would never stop crying, so we almost become numb to tragedy. Therefore it’s actually not all that surprising that no one cares about chronic illness. Regrettably most people don’t even see chronic illness as a tragedy, they see it as a minor irritant that can be fixed by going to the doctor and taking the appropriate medication.
Another reason no one cares about chronic illness is that when bad things happen to people we know we are really great at helping in the short term. Somebody is sick, great I’ll drop everything to help for a couple days. Somebody just had a difficult birth and needs some TLC, great I can help with that. Somebody has a loved one die, I’m there as a shoulder to cry on. Someone lost a job, I’ll drop all the cash I can spare in the mailbox. Somebody is getting a divorce and needs emotional support, I’m there. But the thing is these are all examples of short term assistance. As human beings we are great at helping in the short term, but anything that is long term (not to mention forever) like chronic illness we don’t know how to handle it. This is why the person who has a minor surgery gets much more support than someone with a chronic illness. It seems backwards that everyone will help the person who had the flu, but they aren’t willing to help the person that is always sick.
There is also the perception that because we have chronic illness and it’s going to last forever, we have to get used to dealing on our own. To help us wouldn’t do any good because we are going to have to learn to be independent due to the indefinite nature of our illness. This is tough to hear. There is nothing like being at the end of your rope feeling like your whole life is in pieces and then you’re told you just need to toughen up and learn to be independent. Toughing up just doesn’t cut it though. Chronic illness can and does destroy your life, it isn’t just a matter of getting over it. We need support and love and understanding to help us to stay strong. The more support we get the more will be able to weather the rough times.
If you have a friend or loved one with chronic illness, I know it is hard to be endlessly patient, but please keep in mind what they are going through. Ask them about about their illness, find out how they live from day to day, ask them what their future holds, ask them how their care could be better managed, ask how you can lighten their burden. Ask them all these things and support them, support them, support them.