I believe you: three powerful words for the chronically ill

I Believe You: three powerful words for the chronically ill

Sometimes, you feel alone in your suffering and misunderstood. Sometimes, all you need is someone to say they believe you…

I believe you. Those are three very powerful words.

When I put together my post on what you SHOULD say to your chronically ill friend, I received an email from Noa of the Memi Philosophy who suggested this simple phrase.

I didn’t include it. Not because it didn’t fit, but because it both required some context and was so powerful it inspired me to write a whole post about it.

First the context:

Saying I believe you at the wrong time could be extremely patronising.

For example, if, when I came out of my laparoscopic surgery and was diagnosed with Endometriosis, you had said: “I believe you,” I would be more than a bit pissed off

BUT. At the right time, those three words could bring someone back from the brink of despair.

I’m going to use my own medical history to give you examples of moments when: “I believe you,” would have brightened my world.

I Believe You!When “I believe you” has power

When I became quite suddenly ill with what turned out to be my ME.

I had scary new symptoms like numbness. The world was too bright. I couldn’t do anything but sleep. And my GP kept telling me my tests were normal like that meant I was all better.

Here. Now.

I believe you.

When I was sent to a neurologist who, after examining me, basically told me my illness was in my head, and left me to get on with it. And I tried to believe her. And I pushed my body. And it cried out in agony.

I believe you.

When I was being pushed by all the medical professionals and work to resume my normal duties and I knew it was too much but no one could see how hard it was just to get my feet through my front door every day.

I could feel my body was about to break but I kept telling myself it was just my imagination…if I just kept pushing maybe it would get better…

I believe you.

When the chronic hip bursitis started and my doctor swapped my opiates for anti-inflammatories and they gave me no relief.

I went to the pharmacy to ask what I could take with them, just for four days until I saw my doctor.

The pain stopped me sleeping. I would cry in agony until 4am and then get a few hours of broken sleep. I was desperate for some relief.

And the pharmacist said “you shouldn’t need to…” before telling me the answer.

I believe you.

When I was at my last appointment with the Rheumatologist who had just diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia and I told him how bad it was getting, especially during my period, and he told me “other women with Fibromyalgia report that.”

And I asked if there was anything else I could do to help the symptoms and he said: “You’re doing everything you should be,” with a smile, like I should be proud of being a good patient and managing it well.

And I burst into tears because I was hanging on by a thread. The only thing that had kept me going was the hope that he’d be able to do something to help ANY of my symptoms. And he didn’t seem to grasp how badly I was coping with constant chronic pain.

He rushed me out of him room to calm down and discharged me.


I believe you.

These words could save someone who is struggling to cope. Who is suffering in silence and can’t seem to get across just how awful their illness is and how hard it is to cope with.

And it doesn’t actually have to be the words: “I believe you”. It can be actions or words that show belief, some of which were suggested in my previous post.

Offer to help, to sit and listen, reassure them that their experience of their illness is real, because self-doubt can be really overpowering at times when you keep being told you’re okay when you’re not.

If you want to understand just how big a role self-doubt can play and the potential harmful effects in the choices we make, read my post on self-doubt here.

Now, I know this post has been a bit of a downer, it has for me writing it anyway! But what I want to get across is that the words: “I believe you,” can help so much when you’re going through anything like the examples above.

When you feel like the world is against you, like everyone is telling you you’re experience of your illness isn’t real or isn’t valid, someone reassuring you that you know your body and you are believed is a beautiful thing.

So.. to those lost in a world that doesn’t believe in their suffering, I say this to you: I BELIEVE YOU.

And if you reach out to the chronic illness community you will find many more who do too.

If you are the friend of someone going through this, please make it clear that you are there for them, you’re ready to listen, and that crucially, you believe them.

Lots of love from,

Laura’s Pen

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I believe you: three powerful words for then chronically ill
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
Laura Chamberlain

Laura is a writer blogging about living with chronic illness, namely Lyme Disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS) and Fibromylagia.

She likes food, cats, bad jokes. Unfortunately, her boyfriend is allergic to the last two...


  1. Really loved this post and wish something like this was around when I was first diagnosed with ME and Fibromyalgia – it would have been so helpful to share with friends and family.

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