How many times have you explained your chronic illness to someone and their response was “It could be worse”?
I would be a millionaire if I had even a penny for every time I was told this.
I don’t believe that the majority of people who say this to us, do it with the intention of hurting. I truly believe that they think they are offering words of comfort.
However, the reality is that those words, no matter what intention they were said with, cut deep into the heart of someone living with a chronic illness. And here is why saying “It could be worse” should be avoided:
- It makes the chronically ill person feel that their illness isn’t as important, painful, or difficult to deal with as a terminal diagnosis.
- Those words are often misheard and translated into “Stop your whining, you can complain when you have a serious disease”
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The truth is that things could always be worse. Even for someone receiving a terminal diagnosis, things could always be worse.
I am just as guilty as anybody else who has uttered those words. However, after being cut by them for so many years, I have come up with ways to say them without invalidating the severity of what someone is going through. For example: When the words “It could be worse” pass through my lips I follow up with…..
- , but that doesn’t make what you are going through any less terrifying. How are you coping?
- , but that isn’t here nor there…. What do you need from me? How can I help you?
When followed with a validating comment and question, I am less apt to throw up walls or to emotionally shut down. Instead, I feel safer to open up and have a discussion.
If you have someone in your life who likes to remind you of how much worse things could be, talk to them. Share how it makes you feel and offer alternative words for them to communicate with. It may feel awkward at first, but the more we talk to our friends and family about what they say, the better we all get at communicating with each other. Just remember, to talk, not yell or attack! Not everyone will get it. In that case, just let it go….. because seriously, there is so much more to worry about when you are fighting chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, degenerative disc disease, and abdominal adhesions.
How do you react to hearing “It could be worse”?