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"But you look fine."

What do you do when you are struggling to get through your day and hear those words, "But you look fine"?

“But you look fine.” Have you heard these words when trying to communicate your chronic pain or illness to someone - perhaps a colleague, boss, friend, or family member? “Invisible” illnesses or injuries are often misunderstood or overlooked by others in our lives. This phrase may be spoken in different scenarios:

  • Someone is trying to comfort you (“I know you feel like garbage but you don’t look like garbage”)
  • Someone doesn’t believe you (“It can’t be that bad”)
  • Someone realizes that they have forgotten about your limitations (“I didn’t think to plan for more breaks/less strenuous activities/a venue with an elevator”)

Even if well-intentioned, it can be hurtful. This simple phrase can invalidate your very real struggle. Perhaps some days it takes every bit of strength you have to get up and show up. Sometimes your symptoms flare up at the most inopportune time or sometimes they last for weeks or months on end. For many of us with chronic conditions, the symptoms are always with us, just in varying degrees.

Then there are the people who want to offer you fix-it advice. “You should try a chiropractor.” “You should try physiotherapy.” “You should stretch more.” Or my personal favourite, “Have you tried Tiger Balm®?” These types of therapies are valid - there are many wonderful therapies and products that can help us manage our symptoms. It is the assumption or innuendo that you must not be doing everything you can to help yourself that is the frustrating part.

We may already be trying our best to cope with feelings of inadequacy or guilt for being “that person.” We may be feeling frustrated for not being recognized for our resilience in the face of our chronic disease. We are only asking for empathy, not pity or advice, after all. So how do we respond without blowing a gasket? How do we let it roll off our backs and not bring us down when we start explaining for the gazillionth time?

There is no simple answer, however, surrounding yourself with people who understand and support you without judgment goes a long way. Sometimes we need people in our lives who are not our friends or family who we can talk to without fear of worrying them. Sometimes we just need that blessed hour of treatment with our wellness provider to get us back on track for our day.

Here at Dimension Health & Wellness, we have created a calming and healing environment where you do not have to put on a brave face and give the polite answer when you are asked how you are. You will not be told by anyone here, “But you look fine.” You can tell us without fear of judgment, “It was hard for me to just leave the house today.” We get it. We understand. And we are here to help. Call us today to book an appointment with one of our caring professionals.

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Tracey Stonoski is the founder of Dimension Health & Wellness. Living with chronic pain from a spinal injury, she walks the talk and is proud to bring you a caring team of dedicated professionals to help you live your best life.