When Someone Dismisses Our Chronic Illness & Pain

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by: Jamie Rautenberg

The world is a reflection of our perception. When our bodies are compromised, this changes our perception significantly and it changes the way the world sees us.

I believe there are two major issues at play with chronic illness & perception:

1) The painful symptoms we regularly experience on a physical level are real.


2) Those symptoms have serious affects on our minds & emotions which contributes to a state of trauma.

In the case of Lyme Disease, a terribly misunderstood illness that can affect people in vastly different ways, the physical symptoms tend to be dismissed as being psychological because they really do seem unbelievable if one hasn’t experienced it for themselves.

So there are really multiple layers of trauma here when we factor in the stigmatizing “crazy” label we often receive, physical pain, and lack of support from the medical community & people who don’t necessarily believe us.

This can lead many of us down a long road of struggle searching for external validation we may never receive.

So, I have a detour for us to consider.

If someone is resisting our illness/beliefs/feelings, it’s not our job to convince them to view things as we do. It’s an opportunity to ask ourself why we keep fighting and what can we do to feel supported. If we continue to fight and resist the reality of our situations, we just end up on a road to nowhere eventually running out of the fuel we need to keep us going.

It’s important to remember that we can only serve as reflections for one another. If we don’t like what we see around us, it’s imperative for our bodies that we create new conditions for healing and take back some of our power so we’re no longer seeking approval outside of ourselves.

I suggest rather than putting our focus on those who don’t validate our experiences, let’s shift the attention back to us. If we find ourselves trying to convince loved ones or medical professionals that our experience is legitimate, we are missing the point.

We cannot afford to misuse our energy on people who dismiss us. Instead, we must put our attention on what we can affect in & around us (i.e. educating ourselves about our bodies & treatment and finding the right emotional support through the trauma of this experience).

When I feel misunderstood, I choose to connect with others going through similar situations & empathic people who show compassion and are willing to witness/express vulnerability themselves.

Then I find myself some tranquility.

The other day, this meant laying out on Pier 45 by the Hudson River, closing my eyes, and listening to the soundtrack of the city around me. It wasn’t the most comfortable bench to lay on, but damn that summer breeze felt good. It was peaceful and I got to soak in some much needed sunshine. This was not a symptom-free day by any means, but it was still a beautiful one because I chose not to focus on what was going wrong, and instead highlighted what was right.

We always have a choice, even if we are in pain.

I choose to to conserve my energy for myself & the people, places, and things that uplift me.

I invite us all to do the same.


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