Ten Things to Never Say to a Mother with a Chronic Illness

Are you a mother with a chronic illness? If yes, then you understand that our body struggles with physical limitations that ebb and flow. If you are struggling with symptoms of a chronic illness, then you are inevitably going to have good days mixed in with bad days. Unfortunately, that is the nature of a chronic illness.

Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that there are MANY things you should never say to someone struggling with a chronic illness, in particular to a sleep deprived, physically exhausted, mentally despaired, frazzled new mother, who is also suffering from the compounding effects of a chronic illness…

Here are a few suggestions for what NOT to say to a mother with a chronic illness:

  1. “I am just as tired as you are.”
  2. “You don’t look sick!”
  3. “You MUST be feeling better because I see you are running around with the kids.”
  4. “Have you tried holistic treatment?”
  5. “Have you tried going gluten free? Dairy free? What about trying vitamins?”
  6. “Why can’t you bring the kids over to see me/us?”
  7. This coincides with 6. “Why can’t you do ‘x’ activity with us today – since you did ‘y’ activity with them yesterday!?”
  8. “I hope you get well soon.”
  9. “You look great!”
  10. “Thank goodness it’s not cancer.”

Have you ever been frustrated with something someone said to you about your health and well-being, in relation to your chronic illness? In a perfect world, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone knew the right thing to say to everyone, all the time? What are some things that you would rather hear?

By mommyisntfeelingwell

Mommy has been battling chronic illness for most of her life and has always struggled to live life actively. Though she was not diagnosed with debilitating conditions until adulthood; it was not until after diagnoses, and even after having children, that she realized her lifelong fatigue, and lacking ability to perform motherhood duties, were validated. Mommy Isn’t Feeling Well is a real-life and cathartic blog focused on navigating the struggles of motherhood and chronic illness.

20 replies on “Ten Things to Never Say to a Mother with a Chronic Illness”

Nice Kimmy! I’m doing a mental check in my head- I don’t THINK I’ve said these things but chances are, I probably did. Sorry about that:) haha love ya

Thank you Lindsey! And no worries if you have said any of these…many times people don’t realize how frustrating it is to be judged when you look normal on the outside. So, just as I am trying to educate and make people aware of some of the stigmas people with chronic illness face day-to-day, I am also trying not to take things people say too personally anymore! Love you too!

Great post! My *favorite* comment is when people tell me that they wish they could sleep as much as I do. I’m working on letting those comments roll off me. I imagine I’m wearing a rain slicker and let the hurtful comments glide down my back and puddle at my feet.

Thank you SO much for your comment Jocelyn! And, I love YOUR favorite comment! Gosh, do people not understand how their words can be received? Your analogy to let their words trickle off of you is FANTASTIC! I think I will use it next time I am flustered….I mean, when people say they are” just as tired as we are”…I’d LOVE to switch bodies for just ONE day! ;0) And since that can’t happen, I’ll use your suggestion instead! Any suggestions on what you would RATHER hear? I am thinking I would love to hear more supportive and loving responses!

I have multiple health issues and from a long line of family with chronic illness as well. But, to be honest with you I have found amazing results through diet and exercise and coming off a lot of the medication. I still have issues, but they are becoming more bearable. So, I do suggest the diet and exercise to other that have chronic illness for it has been such a blessing to me.

Hi Crystal! Thanks so much for commenting and totally agree! For so many, diet and exercise can be helpful to treat, if not cure, their chronic illnesses! Diet modification is generally the first topic I bring up when someone is dealing with something chronic, especially when it is autoimmune or digestive related. For myself, diet and exercise helped, but what really sent me over the edge to feel better were blood pressure medications (because my body’s vascular system is a mess, and drinking water and eating salt didn’t help enough), and anti-virals (because my body is still attacking lingering childhood viruses). Welcome to our community and please let me know if you’d be interested in seeing or raising any future topics! Sending hugs, Mommy Isn’t Feeling Well

Hi Crystal! I am terribly sorry for such a delayed response, I am only now seeing your comment from ten months ago – yikes! Thank you for piping up, and I agree, diet is sooooo helpful with some aspects of chronic illness! In particular, for myself, I eliminated dairy, refined sugars and some gluten, and my digestive issues got better by 80%! But unfortunately, changing my diet alone did not help with the relentless fatigue ! For my husband, who has psoriatic arthritis, his inflammation gets terrible after eating certain types of food, let’s be honest, pizza wrecks him!! :0) So, he has also noticed a huge difference if he adheres to less gluten, and no dairy, more of an anti-inflammatory diet as well!

Ha, you and me both! For some reason, I have had a hard time letting these types of go. I don’t show my irritation much, but I certainly have been known to hold onto my irritation! Agreed, a rain slicker image is a GREAT idea!

Great post! My *favorite* comment is when people tell me that they wish they could sleep as much as I do. I’m working on letting those comments roll off me. I imagine I’m wearing a rain slicker and let the hurtful comments glide down my back and puddle at my feet.

Was recently told “‘Well ya just gotta put on a smile and tell yourself this is going to be a great day!!”
Also have someone who’s told me twice she was treated for breast cancer and never missed a day of work

Oh goodness. I guess the best response to suggestions like these would be something along the lines of, “well, thank you, but everyone handles things differently, and today is just not a good day for me.” How did you respond to the breast cancer comment? Yikes.

I point blank asked her “are you comparing my illness with your illness?” She found a way to end the conversation quick (pain and fatigue can drop a filter fast)

How infuriating ? Before, I always managed to work but since having my daughter, it is a full time job managing my condition and trying to preserve enough energy to be the best mum I can be. God forgive me, but sometimes the word cancer makes me angry. When someone has cancer, people understand it and don’t question it or analyse it. Thankfully, more and more patients survive cancer and continue to live full and healthy lives. But with many chronic illnesses we must battle the rest of our lives with very little understanding from others.

Late to the game. On my bad days people ask me if I am my 7 years old grandma. I did have her at 39 but I don’t look like grandma. On my good days I look like my 21 year old’s sister. So I get that all the time “you look great” well thank my gene’s for the great looks and the chronic illnesses. My 83 year old father in law compares his tiredness to my fatigue. I said yes but I am 46 the prime of my life, I shouldn’t need a 3 hour nap in the afternoon. Besides you choose to lay in bed all day and not get up unless you are going fishing. I can’t go fishing during the day the heat would kill me.

Hi there and thank you for commenting later, rather than never! And ooooh, two of my favorite points! Yes, we look so damn good, we MUST not be sick, right? Ugh. Your FIL sounds like my MIL, she compares my fatigue to hers, which is awesome, because I often wonder, “if I felt this bad in my twenties, now in my late-thirties, which should be our prime, by the way, how in the WORLD am I going to feel when I am her age —->dead?!” Hang in there, at least we know that we are not the only ones experiencing feedback like this from friends and even family. One can only hope that with my awareness for invisible illnesses, someday people will start to project a little more empathy! Welcome to the community and please let me know if you’d be interested in seeing or raising any future topics! Sending hugs, Mommy Isn’t Feeling Well

Hi everyone, I’ve only just found this blog and this article is so relevant. I am 28 with a beautiful 2year old daughter and I have multiple chronic illnesses. Since having my daughter my conditions have got allot worse so although I’ve had this my whole life, it’s like it’s brand new since having a baby.
What I wanted to say is… is it just me but some days (mostly) I can take whatever people say to me with a pinch of salt. But other days, usually on my bad days I really struggle to deal with people’s comments. I know that most of the time people just don’t understand what we go through but it just makes me feel like I’m letting everyone down, most importantly my daughter.

Thanks Adele….taking things people say with a grain of salt is sooooo hard, especially when we are emotionally and physically deflated because of our illnesses to begin with! I am thrilled you found this community, are you by any chance on Facebook? We have a private/closed group, where many of us speak freely about this topic! Let me know if you can’t find it for any reason….I hope to see you there! Sending warm hugs to you this week!

Thank you, I have just liked the page on fb and joined the closed group ☺️ I look forward to joining in x

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