Unsolicited health advice

hint1What do you do with unsolicited health advice? The way I see it, I can either gracefully accept it, politely decline it, counter the advice with education, or tear the giver apart in frustration.  I completely understand the urge to give in to the latter.  After all, even well-meaning advice is often base in ignorance.

Why is it that every time a chronic health condition comes up in conversation, some well-meaning person asks what I’ve tried or if I’ve tried X, Y, or Z? It’s as if I’m only allowed to “be sick”, to legitimately “be disabled” if I meet some prerequisite.  If questioned, the person will assure me they are merely curious and want to know more, or concerned and want to help. Few people know how to respond to a chronically ill person without giving unsolicited health advice.

We shouldn’t have to exhaust our savings, lose our house, and ruin our marriages trying every single medical option before we’re granted society’s permission to leave the world of work and just take care of ourselves.  I spent 25 years fighting first Chronic Migraines, then Cluster Headaches, and finally Fibromyalgia. I tried to work, raise a family, maintain a healthy marriage, and even have a semblance of a social life. Over and over again, it failed.  I feel like I failed, as if somehow I should have tried harder, done more, or done less.  The truth is that I was always at risk of losing my job due to my health problems. My frequent absences and poor work performance due to symptoms made me a bad employee. But my family needed the income. I tried so hard.

If my family can be at peace with my new role as “disabled” and I’ve managed to satisfy the draconian requirements of Social Security, then I don’t need to prove myself to anyone else.  So why is it still a raw spot when I get unsolicited health advice? I know what people think and say about those receiving Social Security disability benefits. We are seen as “freeloaders”, “malingerers”, “liars”…and those are the nice terms! Others assume we are mentally ill, substance addicts, or whiners. People say, “It must be nice to just sit at home and collect a check.”  Really?  That “generous” check I “collect” is barely enough to cover the cost of health care required just to keep me functioning from day-to-day. Medications alone can cost over $500 a month. By the way, I worked for 25 years, paying into Social Security with every paycheck. I earned the right to receive benefits in the event of a disability.

Yes, I’ve tried a lot of treatments.

No, I probably haven’t tried everything possible.

Just because my doctor and I choose not to try that “miracle cure” you heard about on Dr. Oz, or Oprah, or wherever does not disqualify me from legitimately accessing deserved benefits and exercising my right to protect what little health I have left by not working myself into an early grave.

Unsolicited health advice not welcome.

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