How To Talk To Friends & Family About Your Chronic Illness

One of the phrases I hear often is people don’t understand what is wrong with me. I’m going to share a way to have better communication with friends and family.

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Think about this

You’re a new student taking a class you know nothing about. The professor is talking fast and breezing thru the material, you don’t even know what the words mean. You’re in a state of frustration and you’re overwhelmed.

Now think about your friends and family, do you brain dump on someone with every Chronic Illness you have, every symptom and side effect? That is too much information. People can’t remember and they don’t care like you do.

How to

The most productive way to educate people on what Chronic Illness you have is to think about the most debilitating illness you have. Now, ask yourself if this illness going to potentially interfere with the relationship. Those are the only illnesses you need to talk about.

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Take the one illness that may interfere with your relationship to talk about. Wait for the right setting, if they are working or on the phone, you’ve lost them. Meeting face-to-face is best. When the time is right let them know you have something important to talk about.

Then give a very brief overview of your illness and how it might impact them. Like having to cancel at the last minute, not being able to go, or having to cut the trip short. Don’t go into the symptoms or side effects of medication, you’ve lost them. If they have questions that’s great if not, that’s ok too. Maybe at the end of the conversation say, I have other Chronic Illnesses and I’ll share them on another day.

Then a couple months later talk with them about the second illness that may interfere with your relationship. Keep it short. I would not share more than three of the most debilitating illnesses. If you talk about your illnesses in great detail all the time you run the risk of being thought of as a hypochondriac.

I’m not a communications expert, take what you like from the post and throw the rest away.




  1. A really important post. I did one once about if/when/how to talk to people about your chronic conditions and realised it’s a tough one to advise on because the situation can vary so much from person to person and depends on who you talk to. You make such a great point about talking about everything – many of us will have many conditions and symptoms, and unless the other person is super considerate, patient and receptive to hear it all, there’s a risk of the other person shutting down, judging, etc. Fab tips.

    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are a few in the chronic illness community that include everything, things that aren’t even chronic illnesses. It was actually the idea for the post. We have enough struggles with invisible illnesses, someone doesn’t need to dumb it down to a problem with their feet.


  2. Excellent post Mel! I agree that it’s probably better to be selective with what you share. As you said, people can become overwhelmed when we share too much information at one time. The advice to share about how your illness might impact your interactions with them is great too – that way, they know what to expect. These are both things I’ve been doing for many years, and they’ve worked well for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My close friends are great with it. They know how to deal with the bad phases. Ironically my aunt can be problematic, and she’s the closest to me. She often takes my behaviors during down spells too personally, even though I’ve explained it a thousand times.
    She’ll apologize for it later when I’m better, but it feels like rise and repeat a lot of the time.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great advice. I’ve generally stopped talking about it. Nobody cares, and the ones that do won’t ever understand. I’m in a take-it-or-leave-it kind of attitude now, and I don’t feel like I owe anyone an explanation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think sometimes we can overshare and lose people. It is hard for me because I have a Mental Illness on top of several Chronic conditions. I only have my husband to talk to so I share when I have a really bad day but he doesn’t need to know everything I do. For that matter, I don’t know everything. There are some Chronic Illnesses that are too complex to share. Have a great day.


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