7 Things Chronically Ill Young Adults Want You To Know
Stop glaring at us for sitting in priority seats, already, Pippa Stacey writes.
There’s no ideal time to become chronically ill, but having your health decline whilst entering the tumultuous world of ‘adulting’ isn’t something I’d recommend in a hurry. Like all young adults in similar situations, I quickly realised that you have no choice but to simply deal with it, and it’s led to some interesting revelations along the way.
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Let me share with you some things chronically ill young adults would like you to know…
1. We don’t want your pity
There’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy, and there are multiple ways of showing somebody that you care without looking down on them in pity. You might be under the impression that telling a chronically ill young person how sorry you feel for them is supportive, but it tends to have the opposite effect.
Take it from me, if you’re looking for a less ableist way to show somebody that you care, a gentle hug (and a cheeky box of their favourite biscuits) is ten times as impactful.
2. No, we’re not ‘too young’ to be ill
Every adolescent who’s experienced long-term illness has likely been the recipient of the “but you’re so young!” statement. I’m sorry, my nervous system obviously didn’t get the memo that it needed a senior citizen bus pass before it could start malfunctioning.
I’ll just tell my body to hold off on the chronic illness shenanigans for a few more years: we were obviously much too keen to embrace this delightful poorly lifestyle.
3. Just because we look well, doesn’t mean we are
“Well you don’t look ill!” is the statement that many of us have heard far too often. Often it’s issued as if it should be a compliment, as if we should be grateful that we don’t look how we feel. And I suppose that is a relief for many of us (I know I’d scare the living daylight out of people if I looked like the so-over-this zombie I feel like most mornings), but the saying does carry an undertone of doubt with it too.
Why should a person need to be able to see our suffering with their own eyes to believe in it? Apparently taking our word for it just isn’t enough, you know, since most lay people have such a good understanding of the complexities of chronic ill health…
Oh, and whilst we’re at it, ‘you’re too pretty to be ill’ isn’t a compliment either. No thank you.
4. There’s no need to glare at us for sitting in priority seats
I get it: watching a seemingly young, healthy-looking person make their way to the accessible seats on public transport could seem like an outright lack of respect. However, there’s no need for the disapproving looks: chances are we’re likely already self-conscious of having to use those seats in the first place, knowing what it must look like to the general public who don’t know we’re ill.
And does raising your eyebrows and tutting condescendingly with fellow passengers about youths these days really achieve anything, Janet?
5. Mobility aids weren’t designed for us
But then again, using mobility aids as a younger person comes with a whole host of its own challenges too. Something I learned myself recently is that powerchairs are definitely NOT marketed towards young adults, and we’re expected to rely on the same geriatric, medical-looking equipment as elderly people and be grateful for it.
Seriously, it’s 2018. Where are the rose gold shower stools at?
6. Education is a battle in its own right
Any young person will tell you that school is tough, but surviving school with a long-term illness is a whole other story. The education system was not made for those with additional needs, and anybody who makes it out the other side deserves a medal. That said, those who couldn’t manage studying or the school environment whilst ill deserve an equal amount of credit. There’s no shame at all in having to drop out of education due to illness.
Chronically ill young people deal with tougher stuff on a daily basis than many professionals with a squillion A* grades will face in their lifetime, and anybody who doesn’t respect that warrants a bit of extra schooling themselves.
7. We still have every chance of being as happy and successful as you
Just because we’re ill, doesn’t mean that we don’t have the same wants and aspirations that you do. Long-term illness means that compromise is second nature, and there are countless things we’ve lost due to our health, but it does mean we’ve become experts at finding a way around the challenges life throws at us. We might have to go about things in a slightly different way, but we’ll get to where we want to be.
We could achieve world domination, provided we’ve had our meds and a little lie down beforehand…
Are you a chronically ill young person? What would you like people to know? Tweet us at @MTVUK.