When You Don't Know What to Say

To say that being diagnosed with Crohn’s is difficult is an understatement. In addition to suddenly living with a life-long illness, we are suddenly expected to continue living our lives as if nothing had changed, especially when it comes to our jobs and personal relationships. 

To make matters worse, we never know how to explain our symptoms to others or convey to them that we are truly sorry for canceling plans last minute.

I have found that it is best to be honest when talking to others about what I am experiencing, yet balancing that with not revealing too much information. Below are some suggestions as to what you can say when you have to miss work, cancel plans, or are just not up for the task that day.

Be (mostly) honest about your symptoms

Use discretion based on to whom you are telling this, but rather than using a generic, “I am not feeling well”, let your colleagues/friends/family know what you are feeling-- nausea, debilitating fatigue, aching joints, stomach cramps.

Of course, you are not lying when you say “I am not feeling well” however, some people, unfortunately, think that we are so it is better to be somewhat descriptive about what is ailing you when calling in sick or canceling plans.

Offer a new date to get together

Should you have to cancel at the last minute, offer a rain check. Maybe you know this episode will only last a day or two so you can plan to meet later in the week. This makes it clear that you truly want to see this person soon and are not just making up an excuse to avoid social interaction.

Suggest a different activity

Sometimes, you are perfectly fine to socialize (and actually want to) but the activity planned can cause potential problems. Perhaps your friends planned an outdoor activity like hiking where bathrooms may not be readily available. 

Or, should you be feeling fatigued, physical activities are not desired but you would be happy to just watch a movie together and share some laughs. Letting your loved ones know that you would feel more comfortable doing a different activity will make everyone happy since you get to spend time with them and can avoid a situation that makes you nervous, sick, or physically drained.

Offer to take over someone else’s shift or do extra at work when you are better

Perhaps your symptoms are preventing you from going to work or fulfilling your work duties 100% and you need to take the day off. If you find yourself missing a lot of work or getting behind on scheduled projects, you may want to consider offering to switch shifts or take on a bigger workload once you are feeling better. 

As mentioned above, be as honest as possible with what is ailing you and work out a system to take on more work once you are feeling better.

Let them know when you don’t know

It is perfectly acceptable to just not know what is specifically bothering you or when you will feel better. Sometimes, you just don’t know. 

Simply be candid and say, “I honestly don’t know what is going on. It may be something I ate or it could be the start of a flare, but I am going to have to cancel.” Not knowing is all part of living with Crohn’s and it is ok to be honest and say that you are not sure of what is going on, and are unsure of when the symptoms will subside.

What do you typically say when you are not feeling well and have to cancel plans or call out of work?

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