People who live with chronic pain or a chronic illness are often put under scrutiny. Most have felt judged at some time in their lives.
Being Judged is Demoralising
Friends, families, colleagues, doctors, social security and even strangers can all be guilty of judging people who live with chronic pain or illness. It’s not helpful when newspapers and other media lump all chronically ill people together under one heading – lazy benefit scroungers.
Being judged is demoralising and leads people to feel guilty and ashamed. People who live with health conditions should never feel like that. Haven’t they got enough to deal with?
It’s Often a No Win Situation
When people are unhappy and depressed due to their health condition, they are often judged for being moody. Depression often comes along with a chronic illness and can also be caused by medications. People need help and support with this, not judgement.
At the other end of the scale, when people are smiling and trying to stay positive, it’s sometimes suggested that there’s nothing wrong with them. “They obviously don’t have pain if they can smile”
But nobody can see what lies behind their smile. A smile doesn’t mean someone has no pain.
Other Judgements That Are Made
The most common assumption made is that a pain or illness sufferer is lazy. After all, they often don’t work, meaning they are at home all day. They might sleep a lot. They might not do much housework. They might not be able to look after their families. So, they’re lazy.
We’d rather not be stuck at home, sleeping the days away. We’d like to have a life.
Many chronic illness sufferers have been told how lucky they are to be able to, “stay at home all day getting money from taxpayers”.
We don’t want to have to claim sickness or disability benefits. We’d rather be working. We’d rather be taxpayers.
People are judged because they have virtually no social life and often let people down when they need to cancel plans.
We want to enjoy life. We want to be sociable. Our pain or illness prevents it. We don’t want to be the unreliable friend who cancels at the last minute.
When they do socialise or do something enjoyable, it’s sometimes presumed that they are fit, healthy and living life to the max.
People don’t realise the effort and energy used for that one outing. They don’t realise the payback we will have afterwards.
Some people are told they don’t try hard enough.
We try. But sometimes our conditions will not allow us to try harder. We’ve had to learn to listen to our bodies and we know that pushing limits will worsen the pain or illness.
Some people are judged for focusing on their health too much.
We focus on it because our pain or illness is normally at the front of our minds day after day. It becomes difficult to shift the focus.
People are often judged for taking medication. Some are even called drugseekers.
Medication makes life more bearable. If people realised the side effects which can come with some of those meds, they’d realise we don’t take them through choice.
Some chronic pain or illness sufferers are told that they are selfish or inconsiderate
Sometimes we have to be. Sometimes we have to put ourselves first.
Some people are told that their pain or illness is their own fault because of their weight or lack of exercise.
Perhaps mobility issues contribute to the weight and lack of exercise. If a doctor suggests dieting or exercise, it should be said with compassion along with the offer of support. Sometimes well-meaning people suggest it, but it comes across as being judgemental. And some people are just rude.
Often people are judged for parking their cars in disabled bays or using disabled toilets because they don’t “look disabled”. They are told they are too lazy to walk or wait in a queue for a toilet.
Being disabled doesn’t have a specific ‘look’. People of all ages, including children, live with illnesses and painful conditions, many of which are invisible. Nobody knows what another person is dealing with.
Being Judged or Being Nice?
You don’t look sick – this phrase annoys many people who live with chronic pain or illness. But it is often said with good intentions. If someone I know and care about tells me that I don’t look sick or that I am looking well, I take it as a compliment. I really don’t want to look the way I feel.
However, when some people say, “you don’t look sick”, it’s not meant as a compliment. It’s used in a judgemental way and can be interpreted like this:
- You don’t look sick, why do you sleep so much?
- You don’t look sick, why aren’t you working?
- You don’t look sick, why can’t you do more?
- You don’t look sick, why are you so lazy?
- You don’t look sick, so you can’t be.
How to Cope When You’re Feeling Judged
When we’re judged, it hurts. Depending on who is judging, it can hurt a tremendous amount. We shouldn’t let other people’s opinions get us down. But what can we do to make those judgemental comments hurt less?
- Ignore comments from people who don’t matter to you. Let them think what they want. They are not worth your time or energy. They are not owed an explanation from you.
- If a close friend or relative judges you, explain to them how you it makes you feel. They need to know that they are hurting you.
- If doctors or other medical personnel judge you, you should explain to them how they make you feel. Perhaps they have something worthwhile to say, but have a clumsy way of saying it. They should be made aware of that. If they are actually judging you, you should make a complaint.
- If someone you love tells you that you are looking well and you don’t look sick, thank them. High five yourself for looking good despite feeling awful.
- Tell the people you love what you need from them. Physical and emotional support will help more than judgement and condemnation.
- If you judge yourself – it’s bad enough when other people judge you, so don’t do it to yourself. You have pain or an illness which affects so many aspects of your life. You have enough to deal with without judging yourself. Don’t put an extra burden on your shoulders.
- You didn’t choose this life.
- You know the truth about your life.
- Your life is nobody else’s business.
Compassion and Kindness
We often live with self-imposed guilt. We don’t need other people’s judgements.
Whether you are a chronic illness sufferer, or someone lucky enough to live with good health, please think before making harsh judgements. Build people up, rather than knock them down. Showing compassion and kindness is a much nicer way to treat people.
Do you ever feel judged? I hope you don’t let other people’s opinions get you down.
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Thank you for reading.