Living with fibromyalgia is extremely hard as millions of sufferers worldwide can attest. The fact that the physical and emotional pain isn’t visible to others can often make it even harder. Fibromyalgia is known as an “invisible illness” because its painful, and often debilitating, side effects are often not apparent to others.
Someone with fibromyalgia can look totally fine on the outside but be suffering from excruciating pain on the inside. Understanding this fact is important for those seeking to be supportive of a friend or family member of someone with fibromyalgia.
While it’s often difficult to find the words to provide support and hope for those suffering from fibromyalgia, here is a list of 5 things that you definitely don’t want to say to someone with fibromyalgia. Believe us, you are better saying nothing at all than one of these 5 things.
#1 “You Don’t Look Sick”
This comment demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of invisible illnesses. Not every serious illness comes with obvious, outwardly apparent symptoms such as being in a wheelchair. Fibromyalgia sufferers have often learned coping mechanisms and may use their limited energy each day to try and appear more normal to others. But the pain is still there. And even hinting to someone with fibromyalgia that they are faking it will likely put your relationship with them at risk.
#2 “It Must Be Nice To Not Have To Work”
Uh, no…it’s not. The vast majority of those suffering from fibromyalgia would do anything to regain their independence and the ability to work full-time. The insinuation that not being able to work was a choice or that they are just lazy is incredibly insulting.
#3 “I’ve Heard That Fibromyalgia Isn’t A Real Disease”
You heard wrong. The cause of fibromyalgia is still being studied and the amount of research lags behind other health conditions due to the historical lack of understanding. But that doesn’t make it any less real for nearly 6 million people with fibromyalgia in the United States alone. Fibromyalgia was officially recognized as a real disease by the U.S. healthcare industry late last year when it was granted its own diagnosis code and has been recognized for years by the FDA and Social Security Administration.
#4 “You Just Need To Get More Exercise And Be More Active”
If only it was that easy. The fact is that many fibromyalgia sufferers push the limits of their physical ability by getting up and taking a shower each day. Many do find some relief in yoga or other gentle exercises such as water aerobics. But often the kind of exertion that comes with exercise just isn’t a possibility.
#5 “It’s All In Your Head”
We saved the worst for last. Actually no, it’s not all in my head. The pain and fatigue is in my entire body and sometimes I feel like even my hair hurts! Yes it’s that bad and the fact that you can’t see my pain doesn’t mean that it’s not a physical condition. Stress, anxiety and depression can all make the symptoms of chronic pain worse but they typically do not cause the pain.
If you made it this far, you are likely either a fibromyalgia sufferer or someone who really wants to understand fibromyalgia to support someone they love. Gentle hugs to you if you are the former and thank you so much if you are the latter.