I think sometimes the reason people don’t understand why we’re “not better,” is because they don’t necessarily understand the difference between acute and chronic illness. If you have people like that in your life (and we all seem to have some), why not share this with them?
Acute means short-term, which means it has a beginning and an end. For example, the flu, a broken arm, a surgical procedure, a cold, or a headache are all considered to be acute. The term also can describe something that comes on suddenly and severely, such as a heart attack or stroke. Although you can experience these multiple times over your lifespan, they come and they go. They can be healed, either with time and/or medication.
Chronic means the illness is always present. It is long-term and ongoing. There may be things you can do to improve your symptoms, but it never goes away. Examples of chronic illnesses include diabetes, lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, cystic fibrosis, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and many more illnesses, both autoimmune (which means your immune system attacks your cells) or non-autoimmune.
Autoimmune diseases ultimately will result in death. Non-autoimmune diseases will not, typically. Fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disease. Your nerves and your brain appear to get mixed and unreliable messages. They tell your body to experience pain, when you have not actually hurt yourself. It is like all the wires have been crossed and no one knows how to rewire it or keep it from going haywire.
It’s so hard for people to understand because when they think of being sick, they really understand only acute illness. They know they’ll feel completely awful for awhile, but they’ll get better eventually. They are unfamiliar with the term chronic, so they don’t understand why you are not feeling/getting better. They know what sick looks like: Chills, fever, vomiting, recovery from surgery, etc. It’s not pretty. But when they see you looking “OK,” they truly don’t understand how you can be sick. That’s where some good communication and empathy come in.
I think the first step in educating people is to help them to see the difference between acute and chronic illness. That should go a long way in establishing greater understanding and a more compassionate stance. Remember, acute is typically sudden and has an end. Chronic is lifelong, barring a miracle.
What are your thoughts?
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.