If you have a chronic illness it is doubtless that at some point (possibly many) you have been called a hypochondriac. It seems as though it is the collective response to someone with a complicated and ongoing illness, but it is almost always completely unwarranted.
I would like to say that it is usually only those people who have some other agenda or need that dismiss the challenges that the chronically ill face (ie, People who really don’t want to have to help you or look like they care) but it isn’t exclusively their domain. Sometimes, regrettably, you will encounter a doctor who doesn’t really know you or how much you suffer, so, based in their lack of knowledge or empathy, they will attempt to dismiss you as feigning illness or exaggerating your suffering. These can often be some of the hardest reactions to overcome because their resistance to listening to you will usually result in you not go to doctors in the future and that is where many of us find ourselves today.
My growing list and progression of symptoms and issues means that I will now go less and less to doctors as I am tired of being tested, prodded, and scanned for no real benefit or relief. Having autoimmune illnesses we don’t really have any guaranteed cures for the difficulties we encounter so often the most we will be offered is a possible band aid that may in fact cause more issues to deal with in the future.
Years ago I used to feel the pain of name calling and labeling such as hypochondriac, attention seeker or even drama queen but today I have built a toughened skin for such names and innuendos. It takes a lot to rattle me now and I have become very good at seeing through a lot of people’s motives behind the things they say. I think that this has been key and it can be a factor that many sufferers overlook when they have their integrity called into question.
What are the motives of those people who want to be dismissive or resort to name calling when it comes to chronic illnesses?
Often it is fueled by their own insecurities and underlying problems which have nothing to do with our own health issues. Sometimes they react the way they do because they don’t want to have to help or assist, or they fear of being expected to show empathy to someone that they don’t really hold that dearly in the first place. Sometimes it’s just plain old jealousy. This is perhaps the most puzzling reason of all but it definitely is one of the reasons and I have heard from far too many fellow sufferers who can attest to this.
Whatever the reason is it is incumbent upon us to put our own health and needs above the reach of those who seek to disregard or impugn us. This can be an extremely difficult thing to do and has always been a challenge for me in the past. Previously the first sign that I was displeasing someone would see me implode and internally and call myself into question … thankfully I don’t do that anymore.
In fact these days the more someone has tried to attack my credibility or doubt my suffering I am very quick to isolate them emotionally and bar them from my life. They clearly don’t deserve our affection or attention and they have shown this in the worst way possible.
Thankfully I now realize that I owe it to myself to not let myself be disrespected or dishonored and I am finding it easier and easier to do as I grow older with emotional intelligence and courage. I can’t help but think that this is something that chronic illness instills in us, that being the ability to focus on self care and self preservation, which can become stronger in the face of personal attacks and skepticism. Ultimately we have no choice other than to do what is best for our lives and our futures.
I have learned a lot from my experiences with chronic illnesses and I have learned many things that I could have never learned without a chronic illnesses!
Holding our heads up in the face of cruelty and denial is just another battle we fight as chronic illnesses but it is my hope that through advocacy and education we won’t have to fight those battles in the future.