One of the hardest parts of living with an illness is the emotional toll it takes when people don’t believe you’re sick. It’s hurtful when people think you’re faking, exaggerating, wimpy, or just need to take antidepressants. This is compounded when you have an invisible illness and people are always telling you, “but you don’t look sick!” Sometimes there is nothing you can do because a person is determined to judge you, but here’s a few tactics you can try.
1. Try to educate
If it is someone close to you and they are important in your life try to educate them on your disease. They might have no idea about the ins and outs of your illness and once they read up on it they might be more understanding. Find articles about your illness and make sure they read them. Invite them to join you on a doctors visit so they can see what you deal with. You could even go so far as to have someone else with the same illness talk to the person so they can see it’s real and its effect on people.
2. Stand your ground
If they aren’t interested in being educated recognize that they are not going to change their mind and move on. Make it clear that you have an illness and you aren’t go to argue about it, but redirect to another subject. For example, if they say ” I heard you have Fibromyalgia, but that’s a fake disease.” You could respond, “Fibromyalgia is a real disease and I have it but I heard you were sick last week, how are you doing?” Be who you are and don’t let their disbelief influence you. You can still interact with them but make sure you stay away from the topic of your health.
People really don’t like silence. Sometimes when people say something stupid I just don’t say anything. I look at them for an uncomfortably long amount of time until they realize what they just said was stupid. They will suddenly start backpedaling. “Um, well, what I meant was…” Yep, you said something really rude, time to backtrack pal.
4. Give them time
Some people have a longer learning curve than others. They may be overwhelmed by what it happening to you or too confused to really understand why you are sick. They may need time to come around to the idea. You may just need to leave them alone for a while and let them process things. They may come to the right conclusion and they may not, but that’s not your concern. It is not your job to prove your illness. They may need to get there on their own.
5. Walk away- don’t engage
In my fantasies I’d say F*** you and then walk away, but that tends to really burn bridges so I wouldn’t recommend it. Sometimes you just don’t have the emotional energy to engage and you just need to walk away. There is nothing wrong with that. You have to take care of yourself and make yourself a priority. Some people are just not worth dealing with.
No matter what tactics you decide to use to deal with people who don’t believe you, don’t let their opinions influence what you think. You are not crazy. You are the expert on your body and your health, not them. Stay strong and believe in yourself.