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.
@Victor Koldunov / Adobe Stock
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 this sentence 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,” “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 I 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. I know when I describe my pain, when I say 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 they 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 have to schedule things they want to do to include a recovery period before they have to do the things they have to do. I hope they never have to sacrifice your 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 the pain, the pity, or the 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
Brittani Miller is a thyroid cancer survivor and fibromyalgia warrior from Southern IL, where she lives with her cat, Frannie, and her puppy, Togo.