“Hey, can you (fill in the blank) since you’re home all day?”
It is almost like the word “chronic” has a whole other meaning to non-chronically ill people. After all, you were barely able to make yourself breakfast, eat and take a shower. They’ve probably already climbed Mt. Everest…or whatever healthy people do. There are probably a million ways how spoonies can say no but I tried to come up with the ones that won’t offend someone.
The phone rings, it’s your friend calling to see if you can go to her house to mail a letter. “All you have to do is drop it in the mailbox down the street. It’s not like you have to run a marathon and you’re home all day anyway.”
Having an invisible illness is difficult enough but without the support and understanding of family and friends, it can be horrible.
When you look the same on the outside as you did before diagnosis, everyone might think you are better. As if having a chronic illness means you are a diva who just wants to eat Bon Bon’s while getting a massage.
So how do you get people to understand that even changing from one pair of jammies to another is enough to make you crawl into bed in pain and sleep for 2 days while other days you could cook for 20? How can you stop them from expecting more from you than you can give?
It’s not easy but here are a couple of things I’ve tried:
- Call them 20 times in a day and ask them to do something for YOU. Just kidding (or not) but seriously, ask them to do a couple of things for you anytime they ask you to do something for them? Most likely they will, at least subconsciously, realize that every time they ask you to do something they end up having to do a few things for you. Usually, they will stop asking you and move on to another victim…err…friend.
- Thumbtack an article explaining your illness to their forehead. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much. Print out some articles, memes or other things you find that will explain your disease and limitations to them. They really may not know how difficult it is for you to just survive each day.
- Create a sign for your front door or bedroom door that says something like “Resting & Fighting Pain Right Now, Please Bring Cookies and Back Away Slowly” or something simple like “Do Not Disturb, I’m Having A Bad Day”.
There are always going to be people who don’t listen to you or ignore what you say. These people are bullies and you don’t need them in your life, especially now.
- Just Say No. No excuses. No “I’m sorry”. It is hard to do but if you say it gently and without malice or frustration they will usually accept it without any problems. It is important that you understand how important taking care of yourself, especially when you are chronically ill.
- Set your phone on “do not disturb” or set a ringtone for those who are always asking you to do something for them. If your phone doesn’t ring, you won’t be tempted to answer it. If you hear a ringtone that you’ve created for the takers in your life then simply don’t answer. They will start calling someone else.
- If anyone asks you to do something tell them you need to rest according to doctor’s orders or you are taking care of yourself because of your illness. The only people who won’t understand are people you don’t want or need in your life anyway.
- Some people will be offended no matter what you do. Be prepared to just accept their attitude and realize it is their problem, not yours. That being said, remove them from your life because they will cause you more health problems than what you already have. You are not responsible for other people or how they behave. These people will always be offended or upset by others and it’s not your job to keep them satiated or fix them.
Life with chronic pain or autoimmune disease is difficult at best.
Taking care of yourself and doing what is best for your health needs to be a priority. If you are running yourself ragged doing for others you might just end up in the hospital or worse.
Your body needs you to be good to it, it needs you to love it. Being firm with others about your limitations and putting your self-care first is not selfish. Now you have some examples of how to stop people from overwhelming you with requests to do things for them. In the end, you may have to be strong enough to just say “NO!” and go eat those Bon Bon’s with a side of “perky healthy person”.
What techniques do you use to keep people from intruding on your self-care?
Do you have a funny ringtone you use for the “takers” in your life?
I love hearing all about how you tackle your struggles with chronic illness!
Do you have other tips you can share with us? Most spoonies have found workarounds for all types of things and I’d love to share your advice.
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Kim is a freelance blogger, writer and VA. She loves sharing resources for other “spoonies” to help them create lives they love. Hoarding crochet patterns on Pinterest is her second favorite thing.