Have You Ever Made An Illness Faux Pas?

(A faux pas is a socially awkward or tactless act…)

I like to think that as a chronically ill person, I try to be open-minded and never assume things about people just by looking at them.

But I recently did something that made me realize that, since I don’t have every illness in the book, I don’t fully understand the experience of every chronically ill person.

While some of the experience is the same across illnesses, some symptoms are illness specific.

I have a friend that I met recently and all along, I’ve been thinking that she is really skinny and I wish I could be as skinny as she is.

I’ve never actually said this to her – thank goodness – because then I would feel like even more of a jerk than I already do.

We were talking and I found out that she has ulcerative colitis and has a hard time keeping weight on because of her illness.

That threw me for a loop. I totally wasn’t expecting that.

And I feel like a total jerk because here, I had never stopped to consider that there could be a medical reason for why she is so skinny.

She doesn’t look sick, but then again, neither do I.

I guess we all make mistakes sometimes, including when it comes to chronic illness in other people.

I guess, somehow, I just expected more of myself than to be that shallow. I always thought I was really with it and really got it. But I guess I don’t get it as well as I thought I did.

You never know what’s going on in someone else’s life unless you ask, and now that I know the full story, I won’t make that same mistake again when it comes to her.

But will I make that mistake again when I see other people and envy the way their body looks?

I’m not talking about envying people that have fingers and toes that aren’t crippled from arthritis; because having fingers and toes that aren’t bent out of shape isn’t a sign of illness.

But will I look at someone and think, wow, I love their hair, only to find out that they have cancer and are wearing a wig?

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself here.

But I would never want to, intentionally or unintentionally, hurt another chronically ill person’s feelings by complimenting them on something that happens to be related to their illness.

So have you ever thought, said, or done something to another chronically ill person that you’ve regretted?

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