Wait until you’re my age
When older people tell you, “just wait until you’re my age,” it is easy to be angry with them when you are young and chronically ill.
"Just wait until you're my age! You don't have it that bad." | @Victor Koldunov / Adobe Stock
Just wait until you’re my age!
“If you think you feel bad now, wait until you’re my age.”
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard been told, “If you think you feel bad now, wait until you’re my age,” over the last six years since being diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease in high school. As my number of diagnoses grew, so did my frustration at the people who would make comments regarding those illnesses. At twenty-two years old, I am still considered young and acknowledge that I am extremely lucky to still be able-passing; however, this causes much discourse in the realm of asking for help or expressing my limitations.
It’s easy to be frustrated and angry when well-meaning people express their opinions on your health. Years of “wait until you’re my age,” “you don’t have it that bad,” and “you’re too young to feel that way” takes a toll on you.
I often want to say, ‘oh, God, if these are my good days, I don’t even want to imagine what my body will feel like when I’m older.’
Usually, I just laugh off the offense and go back to masking my symptoms. Constantly being perceived as lazy when you’re trying your hardest, or seen as attention-seeking when you express your discomfort, can push you to keep quiet about what you feel. Often, we want nothing else than for people to understand – but I, for one, hope that those who don’t suffer from my illnesses never have to.
I am chronically ill and able-passing. I drag myself to work nine-hour shifts four days a week and take online college classes. I let the people in my life believe I am just an introvert or too busy to reply to messages or hang out, not letting on that I am sitting at home under my heated blanket, unable to sleep but also too tired to go out. It took me years to tell anyone I was sick, and today many people wouldn’t know if I didn’t share a lot of chronic illness memes on Facebook.
I know when I tell people I have fibromyalgia and no thyroid, they won’t understand. When I describe my chronic pain, I know my hands sometimes shake too bad to hold a pencil, or I’m too tired to stay out after dark; they don’t understand. And I hope they don’t.
I hope the people who tell me, “wait until you’re my age,” never have to feel like every nerve in their body is on fire. I hope the smallest touch never feels like a punch. I hope they never know what it’s like to wake up every single day with a fatigue that no amount of caffeine can remedy. I hope they never know what it’s like to schedule things they want to do to include a recovery period before they have to do the things they must do. I hope they never have to sacrifice their dreams, hobbies, or wants because they physically can not handle them anymore. I hope they never understand.
And if they don’t understand, I hope they know empathy. I hope they can hear someone – young or old – crying for help and find that empathy for them. I hope they never have to experience isolation or pain, the pity, or discrimination. And when you’re any age, I hope that you are/were healthy; when I’m your age, I hope I am still able-passing
PS. Here is a “Wait until you’re my age” joke
Q. Why did the skeleton go to the party alone?
A. Because he couldn't find any "body" to go with him! When he arrived, the DJ asked, "Hey, where's your partner?" The skeleton shrugged and replied, "Wait until you're my age. It's hard to find someone who's still hanging around!"
Brittani Miller, the author of "Wait until you’re my age," is a thyroid cancer survivor and fibromyalgia warrior from Southern IL, where she lives with her cat, Frannie, and her puppy, Togo.