Four Ways Chronic Illness Tempts Me to Lie


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My 93-year-old dad calls me every day around six at night. Dad has Asberger’s, and to him the world is black and white.

To Dad, everything should have an answer that fits inside a box–especially my illness.

Except that it doesn’t. After three months, doctors don’t have a diagnosis for The Thing in My Brain Stem. Even docs at Mayo Clinic are puzzled.

Dad calls every night with the same questions:

“Are you better?” (Real answer: No.)

“Have they figured out what’s wrong with you?” (Real answer: No.)

“Why not?” (Real answer: I wish I knew. Cuz it’s something weird.)

I HATE upsetting my dad. I don’t want to tell him how sick I really am. He doesn’t have the emotional wiring to understand what’s going on. And so I tell him as little as possible.

The same is true with some of many people. I divide them into two categories: Friends Who Want to Know About YOU and Friends Who See You in a Box.

Friends Who Want to Know About You

  • want to know how you really feel and know that how you look can be irrelevant and misleading.
  • will make time for you no matter how busy they are.
  • will accommodate your needs, your pain, your limitations.
  • will want to know what support looks like to you.

Friends Who See You in a Box

  • ask as few questions as possible.
  • make time for you at their convenience.
  • feel uncomfortable talking about illness, pain, and limitations.
  • define “support” according to their own limited view of need and illness.

Four Ways Chronic Illness Temps Me to Lie

1. I answer superficial questions with superficial answers. It’s easy to tell when someone is asking a question to be polite or socially correct, and it’s easy to emotionally withdraw and answer with less than the truth.

2I can tell when people are growing frustrated hearing the same answers. It’s been three months since doctors first discovered my brain wasn’t quite right–or something like that. By now friends and family are well beyond wanting to hear the same answers for my pain and symptoms. But the truth is the truth.

3. People really don’t care that much. They say they do, but they don’t. Hey folks, call, text, post a comment, send a card, make a call, Skype, IM, or do something. Don’t say you care–your actions say it all. So after months of silence or superficialities, I step back, but I can’t bring myself to say the words out loud.

4. I smile when I don’t mean it. Because it makes other people feel feel more comfortable.


What about YOU? Has chronic illness tempted you to lie to others? Why? How do you cope?

6 thoughts on “Four Ways Chronic Illness Tempts Me to Lie

  1. I get what you’re saying, and agree. I guess for me God is possibly doing something different in the midst of my chronic issues. For me, I feel like He wants me to remember that others are in more pain than I am, and that many people I encounter can’t handle my issues. I have certain people who I know care, care deeply, and (at the very least) want to pray. I am also reminded that many people truly want to help, but God has them in a different place taking them through whatever He has for them, and they simply can’t help. I still get down and ask myself, “Why?” I still get down and wonder if anyone really cares. (Hello, Satan!) I don’t know if I would say I lie, but I definitely hold back. When dealing with others who have chronic issues, I don’t ask a lot of questions, mainly because I think they’re tired of answering the same questions over and over. Depending on who that other person is, there’s also the chance that they are the type of person who wants to sit and do nothing but complain. Instead of being able to offer one another support and encouragement, these people are the ones that like to wallow in their misery, and bring you down along with them. This is different, by the way, than when one has that “down” moment or day; this is how they operate on a day-to-day basis.

    • Thank you so much, Heidi Marie. You’re right–God does not take us all through the same experiences and provide the same perspective. You have a sensitive and perceptive spirit.

  2. Dear Shelly, I am finding what you are writing to be very helpful. I really appreciate you what are sharing. I can’t imagine what you are going through. But I am being comforted. I especially appreciated what you wrote about healing-that you know that sometimes God does heal, but you don’t think it is always what He does. I read Philip Yancey’s book recently, “The question that never goes away-Why?”. He is very real, and writes about how Christians so often make it worse.   I wish I knew how to put what you are writing in Sandscribblings on my Facebook page. Because I really would like to share it. You are putting into words what I have been unable to put into words.  I just really want to say, Shelly, Thank You for writing.  Marianne Caron 

    • Thank you so much, Marianne. I love that book by Yancey. He reminds us of the tensions of living in a broken world. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I definitely do answer superficial questions with superficial answers. If someone asks how I am, I tend to say things like I’m cold or I’m hungry or I’m looking forward to watching a TV show later. Not how I’m feeling. Because no one really wants to hear that you’re always tired/ill.

    • Thank you, Jessica. You’re right, sometimes people want a quick answer, not a deeper reality.

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