I’ve talked about this before, and it seems I’ll never run out of reasons to talk about it again… because I keep running into naysayers and folks who don’t believe I can be sick. I’m flattered that they think I’m too dang cute to be a sicko, but also… super-irritated. Why can’t folks just take me at my word when I talk about invisible illness, as they would with so many other issues?

“You can’t process these conversations as if you’re trying to change someone’s mind. You can only manage your own beliefs and behaviors. Once you’ve got that down, naysayers are much easier to talk to about illness.”

More than 100 million people in the U.S. alone live with invisible illness, so it’s about time we got comfortable speaking up in conversations with naysayers. We don’t have to be jerks; in fact, I advocate the opposite! Today, I’ve gathered a bunch of approaches I use day to day to talk with folks who don’t believe I’m as sick as I say I am…

Watch now for my top 5 tips:

*AWAP = As Well As Possible

Now it’s your turn:

How do you respond to naysayers, doubters and jerks? Fill me in—I want to know! Join the conversation in the comments below, and share your experience.

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Until we meet again: Be AWAP! Smooches!

(Rough) Transcript:

Naysayers abound. There will always be people who question your experience – that’s just human nature.

Unfortunately, those of us with invisible illness get this treatment a lot. (And you’re in good company; more than 100 million people in the U.S. alone live with invisible illness!) Many people simply can’t imagine our experience unless they’ve been in our shoes. It’s unfortunate, but if we dwell on it, it just brings us down… and who wants that?

If there is anyone in your life who just won’t let up, who always questions your experience, then I encourage you to limit contact with them as much as possible. If you have someone who continually doubts you or calls into question your experience, you don’t need them. Boot em!

Here are a few strategies I use for when people around me are being naysayers, or doubting me, or reminding me that some people think my illness isn’t real:

The Quick Change

This involves a quick change of subject. It requires that you do NOT try to change their minds. Instead, turn the tables.

You might try answering a comment like this: “Jenni, I just can’t believe you’re that sick, you are always smiling!” with something like this: “Ah, that reminds me, didn’t you say you’d found a great website with videos that will make us laugh?”

Take what the naysayer is saying, and pivot to something completely different.

Just the Facts, M’am

If you want to educate someone but not have a conversation in that moment, try offering them some facts.

You might try answering a comment like this: “Jenni, wasn’t there something online the other day saying fibromyalgia isn’t real?” with something like this: “Sure, there’s always stuff like that online, and it’s mostly bunk. I’ll email you a link with the latest CDC and AMA findings since it seems like something you’re interested in.”

(And then, keep info like that handy on your phone or computer so you can follow up on that promise.)

Thanks, But No Thanks

You can try to simply say “thanks, but no thanks.” Consider answering a comment like this: “Jenni, my cousin said chronic fatigue syndrome can be fixed with sour cherry juice. Why haven’t you tried that?” with something like this: “Thanks, I can tell you want to help, but I’ve got my health team on that. How are things with YOU?”

(I always like to end on a reciprocal note, which turns the conversation back to them.)

Make Them Laugh

If someone says something like, “But you always look so bubbly and cheerful and put together!” I might respond with something like “I’ll tell my glam squad you said so!” or “You should see how sexy I look in a hospital gown!” or “I can’t show up for a blood draw looking a mess, can I?”

It’s all in the delivery. I sometimes like to add a little wink.

The Blank Stare

If someone just won’t let up, and you’re in a public situation that doesn’t allow you to walk away, try silence. It’s hard to beat. Simply don’t respond; smile politely. It will be uncomfortable, but you can do it.

There you have it: My top five responses to folks who don’t believe I’m sick. Enjoy!