Too often, people with chronic illness find themselves downwind of seemingly helpful advice.

There’s nothing worse than being given advice is there? It’s easy to think we need advice but when it comes, it can feel like criticism, or it doesn’t seem to fit or solve our particular circumstance, or it demonstrates that the person advising has made a wrong assumption about you. Receiving unsolicited advice can leave you feeling judged, pushed and pulled emotionally, or dangerously misinformed.

Actually, It feels much nicer just to be heard and accepted, or hugged, or even better to feel real empathy and understanding coming from the person with whom we are sharing. Failing that just bring chocolate.

Why do we feel the need to fix things for others? Why do we feel qualified to give health advice to people when they have a chronic illness? We like to feel helpful. We hate people to be unwell and want them to feel better. Society teaches us to solve problems, to mend holes – put things the right way up – to be logical and strive for perfection.

Despite knowing better, I am guilty of giving advice, I’m trying to break the habit, but before I do I have one last piece of advice for you…

Next time you find yourself about to offer advice ask yourself, “Is this more about me than them? Am I trying to manage my own anxiety to offer a response, demonstrate that I care, and to feel better about the shitty situation they’re sharing with me or is it genuinely something I believe will help them?” If it’s genuinely the latter, consider whether they may have heard it before (often people with chronic illness have heard the same advice repeatedly).

And then think to yourself, where did I get this wonderful nugget of information I need to pass on? Have I read it in a magazine/ in a blog? Is it anecdotal? Or is it helpful scientific information that isn’t readily available? Thought not.

Perhaps we can genuinely help each other and ourselves to be the best that we can be, and to be emotionally, if not physically healthy by encouraging, loving, trusting and accepting each other. In doing so find out what the people around us need. Rather than trying to fix each other.

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