When people find out that you’re a horsewoman with an autoimmune disorder, they have a tendency to offer helpful advice.
The world is filled with well-intentioned people, after all. But sometimes, well, most of the time, those well intentions make me want to punch you in the face.
Since the last article about my disorder came out, I’ve made some great horse friends with similar issues. For fun, me and my ‘ill for life’ clique like to compare notes on the ridiculous bits of wisdom folks offer us.
“You should take these great herbs from Whole Foods!”
“Have you tried eating organic?”
“I’ve got this great seaweed wrap that works wonders!”
“Yoga fixes everything!”
Look, I’m not about to poo-poo your crunchy granola tree-hugging parade, my friend, but the bottom line is, nothing fixes this. No magical seaweed wrap, no herb you can buy over the counter, no amount of down dog—NOTHING. In fact, some of these things may interfere with the medication I’m on to, you know, keep me alive.
I’m not saying I’m not a crunchy granola tree hugger, either—because I am. I’m simply saying that I have condition that can’t be fixed and the sooner you recognize that, the happier we’ll all be. So, if you know someone who’s living with something more than the common cold (such as Lupus, HIV, etc.), please refrain from offering unsolicited medical advice.
We get that you mean well. It’s just that your ‘helpful’ advice is not actually helpful. Keep in mind, too, that you’re not the first to tell us that turning ourselves into a chimichanga or taking this magical pill you saw on late night TV or standing on our head drinking water is going to fix us. This is a life-long condition and we’re doing our best to understand what’s happening and how to best manage our disease.
Sometimes, and repeat after me, the best thing to say is:
That’s it! That’s all you have to say. THAT SUCKS. If you’ve got a sick friend and you want to know how to help, utter those two small words and we’ll appreciate it more than you can imagine.
And while we’re on the subject of how to handle your sick friend with kid gloves (because we are an angry lot, after all! That’s why we need so much yoga and meditation), don’t compare your illness to ours. It’s not a contest.
Saying things like “I understand because I have XYZ” is not in fact an empathetic response. Unless your XYZ ailment is the same as mine, there’s no way you can know what I go through on the daily. So don’t presume you know how I must feel, because you don’t. When us sick folk converse with other sick folk we aren’t comparing notes or even whipping out the measuring stick for who is sicker. (Although, admittedly, I will frequently think, “Well, thank God I don’t have that!”)
Also, on the unwelcome commentary list: don’t ask us if it’s fatal. Nobody wants to talk about that. And especially, don’t tell us when you KNOW someone whose died from what we’ve got.
“I’m so sorry you have <insert disease here>.” (Acceptable).
“That sucks.” (Clearly acceptable).
“My sister/aunt/cousin/neighbor died from that.” (Oh, so close!)
We come face to face with the mortality of our diseases enough already. We sure don’t need to hear about how that person died!
And finally, and most importantly to your survival when encountering a ‘sick’ horse person, DON’T ASK US HOW WE KEEP RIDING. Aren’t we afraid of falling off? Aren’t we afraid of what can happen? Sure we are. But we also can’t imagine our lives without the horses in them.
In my case, nobody would take my horse on a bet. He’s a prickly and finicky fellow and he’d sooner take up with a band of bandits than a new mom. The younger horses are more amicable (and most trustworthy) than my old man. They are our yoga, our meditation, our seaweed wrap.
So again, let’s say it loudly again for those of you in the cheap seats: “That sucks.” It works well within the sicko clique, too.
On behalf of all us out there who are sick, just remember those two words: “that sucks.”
About the Author
Amanda Hensley is a life long rider, who has done everything from breed related shows (Buckskins/AQHA/Arab) to hunters.