A lot of my family members still don’t know that I have Hashimoto’s disease. It’s never really come up and I don’t know how to bring it up spontaneously. Instead, I just don’t talk about it.
One of my cousins also has a chronic illness – fibromyalgia. While our diseases are different, I figured that she would understand what it’s like to not always be in control of what happens to your body. For that reason, I thought that opening up to her would easy. I was hoping that after I came clean, we could build a support system for each other.
I was wrong.
I actually wish that I hadn’t told her at all and now I will be sure to never talk about it around her again.
The first time I mentioned it, was because the endocrinologist’s office is near her house and stopped by on my way there. It was a brief conversation and I downplayed it a bit because I didn’t really want to go into detail at the time.
The second time, I was responding to something that her son asked about Hashimoto’s. I told him that basically my immune system attacks my thyroid gland and pointed to my neck to show him where it was. My cousin then responded by saying “Well, my fibromyalgia attacks my nerves.”
I felt that the comment was unnecessary. Her son and I both know about her condition already. We’ve talked about it openly before so I guess she just wanted to be a part of the conversation. I didn’t really think anything of it at the time. I let it go and didn’t bring it up again.
Then, the was the third time.
I can’t remember the exact conversation but I was still struggling with how I was going to start a conversation about Hashimoto’s with her. I thought that the best way would be to bring it up casually, ease into the conversation. So when she mentioned something about the fact that I had been really tired one day, I responded with, “It’s a symptom of the thyroid disease.”
I was not prepared for what she would say next.
Instead of asking more about it or even just letting it go she said, “Well, I probably have that too and you don’t have fibromyalgia on top of it”
I couldn’t believe it. The last thing I expected (or needed) was for the person that I opened up to to tell me that my symptoms didn’t matter and that my disease wasn’t “as bad” as theirs. I only wanted someone to talk to, but apparently I failed to realize that we were in competition for the “Worst Chronic Illness Award.”
After that day, I’ve stayed silent. I don’t talk about the symptoms. I don’t mention my upcoming endocrinology appointment. I keep it to myself and pretend my illness doesn’t exist.