how to deal with people who don't believe you're sick

How to deal with people who don’t believe you’re sick

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.

3. Silence

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.

it is not your job to prove your illness is real

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.

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8 thoughts on “How to deal with people who don’t believe you’re sick

  1. Thank you Shelley for realistic responses we can actually use. I love the silence option, in my experience it has a profound effect! My disease (CKD) is quite measurable and I still get people who don’t believe me. It’s amazing isn’t it?

    1. It’s so strange that even when illness is provable, people still aren’t believed. It’s like there’s nothing sick people can do to make up for being sick.

  2. There are stupid and hateful people everywhere.
    Sometimes (OK, all the time) I wish I could transfer my pain to someone even if just for an hour. They would never question me again.

    All we can do is sign up at sites like this one and read articles written by other Fibromyalgia sufferers and know that we are not alone, no matter how it may feel at times.

  3. These are really helpful tips! Those who really care will try to understand it and educate themselves. Some of my family and friends know about my illness but are very sceptic. I just try to avoid the topic and not let their comments get to me. I had to cut out some toxic people but I feel very lucky that I have some close people in my life who learned more about my disease and even get it.

    1. People seem to have a hard time understanding that fatigue and tiredness are not even close to the same thing.

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