Living with a chronic illness sometimes feels like a rollercoaster ride you can't get off: You're not always prepared for the twists, turns, and dips that often accompany disability, and there’s no guarantee how you’ll feel from one day to the next. However, having a supportive partner, family, or friends who know what's helpful to say to someone with a chronic illness can help make those difficult days a little more bearable.
In fact, research has shown having a good emotional and social support system is a "protective" factor for health. As Amy Walters, Ph.D., a psychologist and the director of mental health services at St. Luke’s Humphreys Diabetes Center, told SELF in 2018, "Social support plays a critical role in coping with the condition. [...] People who have strong social support networks tend to do better long-term."
Though family and friends usually mean well, statements like “You’ll beat this illness one day?” or “Have you tried yoga?” can feel dismissive, hurtful, and invalidating. Rather than dolling out unsolicited advice about someone's disability, the most supportive and reassuring statements tend to be the most straightforward: Having a loved one simply acknowledge your pain, emotions, and worth as a person can be comforting when you live with a chronic health issue — especially because of the stigma and ableism that surrounds disability.
Not sure how to best support your loved one? Here’s what six women and nonbinary folks living with chronic illnesses say are the most validating things their partners, or family members have ever said to them.