Living with Chronic Pain
How to Manage Accusations of “Faking” a Chronic Illness
Individuals with a chronic illness are often treated as though they are fabricating their condition. This is especially true for those dealing with an invisible illness. Whether it’s a family member or a passing stranger, knowing how to deal with accusations of faking an illness is difficult. Skepticism from others regularly leads to frustration.
The first reaction may be to argue, which can be exhausting. Retreating preserves energy and emotional wellness, but leaves the perpetrator uneducated and can cause feelings of defeat. It is burdensome to know how to cope with each individual case. Managing accusations of faking a chronic illness may include educating, asserting privacy, walking away, or believing in oneself.
It is challenging for someone who is not chronically ill to imagine the complexity of a chronic illness and the specific effects it may have. While some accusers are malicious in their intent, others may not understand. Educating people takes time, energy, and emotional labor, which may be problematic. However, this may prevent continued, thoughtless comments in the future. Providing educational material to people who have doubts about the condition can help. Asking loved ones to attend health care appointments allows them to ask providers direct questions about the condition.
Normally, a person does not demand details about others' medical history or diagnoses. It is acceptable to tell someone that they are crossing a boundary if they ask health questions. It may be best to keep certain topics of conversation off-limits. Do not be afraid to tell someone, “I prefer to keep discussions about my health condition between my doctor and myself.” Changing the topic of discussion can prevent dealing with negativity or defending oneself.
Care should be taken to avoid any discussion that could escalate to a physical confrontation. Safety should be the top priority; therefore, it may be necessary to simply disengage from the situation and walk away. Unfortunately, this is not always feasible if the accuser is a close friend or relative. It is important to try not to notice nor care what others think about a chronic illness; however, feelings surrounding the situation may include anger, sadness, and self-doubt. It is critical to process these feelings, including talking to a therapist, writing in a journal, or discussing it with someone who has shared experiences.
Believe in oneself
The most significant thing a person can do in response to these accusations is to recognize their own experiences and believe in themselves. When chronic illness is present with accusations of deception, a ripple effect of self-doubt can transpire. No matter what others may imply, self-validation is an essential step towards acceptance.