I’m 23 years old and living with a progressive, genetic disease. I have been really sick for over half of my life, and the one thing I will never get used to hearing is “you are too young to be sick”. I hear this one phrase a dozen times a month and I’m baffled every single time. Does society really think that young people don’t have illnesses?
It is one thing when some random person you see at the grocery store says it to you, but when a healthcare professional says it, I’m honestly perplexed. They should know better. There are countless sick children in America alone. That is why we have children’s hospitals. Why is it so hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that I am young, and indeed very sick?
A little background information on me is that I have been mildly sick my whole life. I had a bunch of little health issues that we didn’t think much of. When I turned 13, they started to get worse. By the time I was 15, I was really sick. Then, when I turned 20, things got extremely bad and I was finally diagnosed with the correct diagnosis of Mitochondrial Disease. It is a genetic disease that I was born with. The older I get, the sicker I will become. There is no good treatment and no cure. I will be sick for the rest of my life.
Yet, people are still baffled by the fact that I am sick. Why can’t society wrap their minds around the fact that young people do have illnesses? I have a theory:
It’s because they cannot relate. They had a healthy childhood and only started to have health ailments when they became older. They have this idea in their heads about what every phase of your life should look like because it’s what their life looked like. They don’t know any different.
So when someone says “you are too young to be sick”, it’s because they were healthy at your age. They aren’t trying to be ignorant; they just can’t relate.
So what do you do when someone says this to you? Personally, I have a few go to responses:
1. Young people get sick all the time. That’s why they have children’s hospitals.
2. How old do I have to be then?
3. Genetic diseases don’t discriminate against age.
Next time someone says “you are too young to be sick”, don’t be afraid to give them a little sass. Trust me, it’s easier than awkwardly standing there not knowing what to do.