Phrases People Should Stop Saying

The Phrase I Wish Was Extinct: 4 Bloggers Speak Out

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…

A Quote by Matt at: SurvingMyPast.net

“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”.

Matt
Surviving My Past | My Life with Dissociation, Anxiety, and PTSD.
Find Matt on Facebook and Twitter

 A quote by Brittany @ asouthernceliac.com

“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.

Brittany Wattenbarger
A Southern Celiac | Food. Fashion. Fainting.
Find Brittany on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Quote by Kim @ GraceIsSufficient

“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!

Kimberly Penix
Grace Is Sufficient | Finding Peace and Purpose After Diagnosis
Find Kim on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

And now for mine:

Please, Stop Using These Phrases

“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!

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29 comments

  1. Brittany W says:

    “God never gives you more than you can handle” is another phrase I wish would disappear. I agree- it’s totally not Biblical! God can handle things for me, but there’s a lot of stuff I can’t handle that’s been thrown at me.

  2. Kim says:

    I know most people probably mean well when they say these things to us, but honestly, I’d rather they just sit and listen or offer to help in some way. We don’t need them to try to fix our health problems, we all have teams of doctors working on that with us. What we need is the emotional support from those we love.

    • Janka says:

      Great point Kim!
      I hope there are enough people in your life who are there with you the way it makes you feel comforted and relieved Kim.
      Emotional support should be taught, don’t you think?
      I guess they can feel helpless too and by talking to us they perhaps process it? Is it possible they want to make sure they muster the resources ( physical that is) they have available in an effort to assist by sharing the info? I just wish the patronizing and the endless questions, and often feeble at that, which feel like a cross-examination would stop. They are so upsetting on a rough day. All the best, Janka

  3. Meredith says:

    Thank you all for sharing! My new not-so-favorite responses are, “I wish I didn’t have to work,” or “Oh, I would love to be able to nap that much!” I do understand where this is coming from. When I taught, I worked 12 hour days quite often, and I would have given anything for a break. But we (those of us who can’t work or need to sleep a lot for whatever reason) don’t WANT to be bed bound or homebound or spend our days sleeping. I assume most of us wish we could work, and could stay awake, or be pain free, or whatever it is we’re dealing with. All I can do is smile politely and tell myself they’re trying to relate. I know we’re all trying our best. But this blog post is very refreshing! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one hearing these things. 🙂

    • Kami says:

      I hear you, Meredith! I do think there is a balance for everything. I have to give grace and understanding for where others are coming from, as this is a learning process for everyone (communication between the well and sick). I also feel that those on the outside hold a responsibility, too – to endeavor to be more aware of what’s helpful and what’s hurtful. Love hearing your perspective and also: those phrases you shared are hard too! Sending hugs, friend.

      • Meredith says:

        Kami, I agree. Those on the outside do need to accept responsibility for their comments. I have come to accept that it is my new “job” to educate others who aren’t ill about so, so much, including what not to say. Sometimes it’s just exhausting, though. It would be nice if those who are well would think before they speak these phrases. But then again, we all know the phrase – “You don’t get it till you get it.”

        • Janka says:

          Make perfect sense Meredith. I wish listening and hearing the humane in us was a life skill that is being developed widely. There is part of me saying from the back of my mind – Gee, that’s gonna take a while…
          I hope replenishment, encouragement and inspiration aren’t too far for too long Meredith when the going gets exhausting and rough.

        • Kami says:

          I love that, Meredith. It’s kind of why I began to shift the focus of my blog a couple years ago. To take on a role of educating others, hopefully in an approachable manner, to raise awareness and bridge the gap between the sick and the well. I love that you take on that role too! Keep at it, sister! <3

  4. Jamie says:

    “I don’t know how you live like that” is the one that hurts the most. Like Brittany said, I don’t have a choice. Another sentiment that bothers me is when I am at a gathering and I have to turn down food. When I explain that I can’t eat gluten for medical reasons “oh, you’re one of those people.”

    • Kami says:

      That one is so painful, yes. It was one of the first ones handed to me that made me cry after I saw the person. Like you and Brittany said, we didn’t choose this life. The food comment!! That’s so hard. I feel like there doesn’t seem to be in between ground very often with people on that subject – they either totally understand or are completely skeptical. Sigh. Thanks for chiming in, friend. Lots of love to you. <3

    • Brittany W says:

      I have celiac and it’s so hard to get people to take me seriously when I say I need gluten free food. I have a family member who is a nurse and refuses to believe I really can’t eat gluten!

  5. Jean says:

    Kami, this is really helpful for me, and I sincerely hope that if I used any of these phrases, that I have not continued!

    I do want to comment on Kimberley’s post. This sentiment probably originates from 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” In other translations, the word “trial” is replaced with “temptation.”

    That said, saying this to someone with a chronic illness, in my mind, is like the equivalent of me saying to someone whose house has just burned down, “That sucks, but life goes on.” That statement may be true, but as a standalone is not at all helpful. I feel that if I say something equivalent (which may or may not be appropriate depending on the person and my relationship to him/her), I need to be at the same time offering this person a meal, a place to stay, clothing, or even just contact information for the Red Cross- some form of tangible help.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • Janka says:

      Absolutely true Jean. Searching for any kind of tangible engagement with the person who is sufferintg to alleviate the shock just feels like running the full circle doesn’t it?

    • Kami says:

      Thanks for sharing your perspective, Jean! I definitely believe the tangible acts of help, the listening and supporting, go so much farther than platitudes or phrases that bring more harm than good. I love the list you gave! Hugs to you, friend.

  6. Donna says:

    Great post. I try my best not to get annoyed as, for the most part, people say things to me because they care. But saying things like “keep a positive outlook” etc wears you down after a while. I think people need to be aware that they are sometimes putting down our efforts and struggles with their comments.

    • Janka says:

      Thanks for sharing how tiresome, hurtful the unhelpful comfort prefabs can be Donna.
      Worn down and put down…The last thing anyone hanging by a thread needs to feel, right?

      Instead of a blanket I-have-said-enough-to-show-I-care-about-you I wish the person would ask how you unwind or used to unwind or what makes you happy, albeit it a glimmer of happy, and decided to do that with you to show they truly wish to make you feel better and feel better themselves about it as a result. What do you think about that Donna?

    • Kami says:

      I so agree, Donna! I think there is a balance and responsibility on both ends as we navigate these often bumpy conversations. I have to try to not take too much offense from well-meaning words, but definitely ache for that awareness on their end too! Definitely thankful for the people in my life who HAVE been willing to learn and listen throughout these years of illness. Those friendships are a gift!

    • Kami says:

      Thanks so much for reading, GG. I agree that these have been used for far too long. There are better alternatives, more appropriate ways to comfort and connect with the chronically ill. Hopefully as we all share our stories we will help raise awareness!

  7. Amy says:

    I love this. I was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 13 and it has limited me in more ways than I like to admit. From simple things like not being able to drive because I care too much to risk it (shocking to some), to dealing with the question “So what do you do?”, people without chronic illnesses don’t realize the struggles that we go through on a daily basis. I wish people could be satisfied with me saying that I’m a stay at home dog mom/blogger, but as soon as the secret’s out, it’s like all contact has to be severed because they might catch the unemployment bug from me or something. I’ve spent many years just learning to accept my condition, and I wish others could also.

    • Kami says:

      Hi Amy. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and share your own experience. I feel both sad and glad that you could resonate. That question “so what do you do” always stumps me for a minute. Not because I don’t know what I do but because my life looks so different than normal and I’m sure you can relate! Sending you hugs and hoping your day today is one of the “better” ones. Xoxo

    • Kami says:

      GIRL, yes! I understand people can use these phrases as their own coping mechanism for not knowing what to say…but seriously. They have no place period, let alone in avenues of pain.

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