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Please Help! Chronic Illness and Meeting People, Part 2

Posted Jan 21 2009 4:26pm

I’m so torn.  For me the answer is as follows:

It depends on my mood.  And how a person makes me feel.  And where I am.  But mostly I don’t tell them unless I have to.  In fact, since my diagnosis in 1998 (at age 14), I have lived in (minus my 10 semesters at college) the same small town.  And, during my flare up last spring, I learned quite a few people whom I have known for the entirety of that time had no idea I have a chronic illness.  I consider this amazing.  They are either… very kind and gave me the benefit of the doubt on countless occasions, or very forgetful.  Either way it meant a lot to me.

On the other hand, it means just as much to me to think of the hundreds of folks who know I struggle with health challenges.  They haven’t made it their business to tell people.  They haven’t made it their business to make a scene when they can tell I am not feeling well.  Quite the opposite.

Anyway, back to the point.  When I have to tell folks I just say it.  Something stupid sounding, I’m sure.  But I always say it matter-of-factly.  “I have fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.”  I then typically downplay whatever symptom or situation has necessitated my discussing my invisible illnesses.  And I am usually tempted to crack a joke.  But I typically resist the immature urge.  Because it’s not a joke.  And I don’t treat it lightly (that doesn’t mean I act like it’s the end of the world, either).

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