You don’t have to be chronically ill to come up with your own phrase you wish people would stop using. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we have all been guilty of stringing together a bunch of well-rehearsed words that did more harm than good.
I think there’s a line we often struggle to see. It’s the line that borders sensitivity and awareness.
It’s one thing to say something to the person, see their pained expression or blank stare, and decide to never say it again. Or, even better, try harder to understand what they’re going through. Embrace awareness. Listen.
But to repeatedly say the same rehearsed lines over and over again just because they’re commonplace? They’ve lost meaning, often lack truth and they’re painful to hear. And the aftermath of hurt is not something than can be chalked up to someone just being “too sensitive”, friends. This is a vivid display of a lack of awareness.
So I asked a few of my favorite chronic illness bloggers + friends to share a phrase they wished was extinct and offer an alternative or dose of awareness. Here’s what they said…
“Just Get Over It.”
As some who suffers from Dissociation, Anxiety, and PTSD as a result of childhood sexual abuse and narcissistic abuse, one of the phrases I can definitely do without is, “Just Get Over It”. Honestly that’s about the worst thing you can say to anyone who’s suffered any type of emotional trauma.
Physical wounds can heal, but emotional scars can last a lifetime. You simply don’t “get over” being abused in any capacity. Our minds, our very being, everything about us changes, whether it’s a one-time incident or constantly over years and years.
For many of us, we never had self-esteem, confidence, or an ability to trust and love. All we’ve ever known is fear, pain, and a feeling of worthlessness. Some of our earliest memories were of being torn down, manipulated, and used.
For others, our abuse happened later in life, and completely transformed our identity into someone we never thought we’d become. Therefor we have to work even harder to retrain our minds to see others, and the world overall, and not something we should fear.
Instead of saying, “Just Get Over It”, how about trying something like, “I’ll stand with you”.
“I don’t know how you can live like that.”
There are a lot of phrases I wish would just disappear. As a chronically ill person, I hear so many things that make me wonder if the person thought them through before saying it! Out of all the things I’ve heard, however, “I don’t know how you can live like that” is probably the worst.
Whether it’s about being in constant pain, not being able to drive, having muscles that rebel against me, there are a lot of things about my life that aren’t necessarily ideal. But you get used to it. I do have days when I hate not being able to do things I want to do, and I would love not to be in pain all the time. So, on the surface, “I don’t know how you can live like that” doesn’t sound too bad. But then you think about it.
I live like this because I don’t have another choice. I live like this because I have to. Telling me that you don’t know how I do it doesn’t make me feel inspirational. It makes me feel depressed! Chronically ill people adjust. And eventually? We thrive.
“God won’t give you more than you can handle.”
I’m not sure where the idea got started, but I haven’t been able to find it in the bible. It can be so harmful to the receiver, making them feel like their faith is weak instead of helping them focus on the struggle as a way to lean on God and all His strength.
As a matter of fact, it even goes against some of the greatest examples in scripture. If you read the Psalms, they’re full of David’s weeping and sorrow – not exactly words that sound like they were written by someone who’s handling life with exuberance and inner strength.
In 2 Cor 12:9 the Apostle Paul says, “But He (God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Paul boasts about his weakness so that we can see that it’s only through God’s power that he was able to endure.
Instead of minimizing someone’s struggle with a phrase like this, it’s better to just be a listening ear and offer to pray with and for them!
And now for mine:
“Just be positive.”
For some this may be their life motto and I truly have nothing against that! I am all for embracing feelings of happiness or gripping onto hope. But, passing me that phrase in response to my sharing how I’m really doing? It’s painful.
Often times those of us living with illness face cycles of grief, loss, and trauma throughout the many different layers of this chronic life. If someone were to slice their hand open with a knife, would you run over to them and say “just be positive! Your hand will feel better!” (If you’re answer is yes, this is probably not the blog for you).
More than likely you would offer to help. You’d clean the wound, take them to the ER if it’s a deep cut, or get them a bandage. There are things you just do in that situation right? In the most basic terms: you support them.
Chronic illness isn’t something that just “goes away” or heals after a visit to the ER. So we find ways to navigate this new life. We don’t live in the depths of negativity, but we do face some heavy, deep emotions and struggle.
Your support will always go so much farther for someone hurting than a careless “cure all” phrase would ever do. So instead of telling someone with chronic illness to “just be positive”: listen. Chances are you’ll hear their bravery, for each day is a battle they’re fighting.
How about you? Is there a phrase you would like to change?
This week I had the honor of joining Sarah Rieke on her podcast, Heart Lessons, to talk about my life with Lyme. To listen to our chat and check out her wonderful blog, click here!