I’m Thankful He Doesn’t “Get It”


“Your cells react to bacteria and viruses differently than mine. You don’t get sick, I do. That’s also clear…We’re on the same curve, just on opposite ends.” Elijah Price, “Unbreakable.”

I want to introduce you to my brother Justin. He’s three years younger than me; same parents, same upbringing. We’ve been living together for the past five years (our youngest brother has been living at home with our parents or on his own). We have pretty different interests, but we also have enough in common to be friends. One thing that is not common, however, is our health.

He never gets sick, but if he does with something like a cold, he’s over it in a day or two. Usually his “sickness” is self inflicted from being out the night before. He’s an exercise science major amd he will graduate this May. Working out and eating healthy are hobbies to him. When he’s not at class, he’s at work or hanging out with friends, going out and about around town.

I get angry that my body doesn’t allow me to do the “normal” things he takes for granted. Of course I’ve adapted and tried to accept my limitations as best I can, but that doesn’t mean my anger isn’t there.

I’m also angry that he doesn’t get it.

He doesn’t understand what it’s like to be sick. What it’s like to be stuck inside on a beautiful day. What it’s like to give up a “good day” to simply get caught up on laundry or other chores. What it’s like to have friends only online. What it’s like to have no energy to shower. What it’s like to put on weight due to medications and being in too much pain to try to work it off, if that would even make a difference at all. What it’s like to simply wake up and hurt. What it’s like to see your dreams crushed, shattered, stomped on, eaten and spit out at every attempt to fulfill them, even the modified versions.

As angry as I am with his lack of understanding, I am also thankful that he doesn’t understand. He still has this naïve idea of what his future is going to be and that it‘s all planned out and ideal. I’m thankful that he’s been able to do everything he’s wanted to do thus far in life. I know that one day he will understand. Somehow, someway, life will throw him a curve ball that he isn’t ready for or expecting that will leave him wondering, “What happened? Why me?” On that day, I will be thankful that I have had the experiences that I’ve had to allow me to offer understanding, compassion and empathy to my brother.


Article written by staff writer, Sonja Peterson


Sonja is a cat mom with endometriosis and fibromyalgia. She also had a hysterectomy for adenomyosis. She blogs about her experiences at The Mud and the Lotus www.mudandlotus.com

  • Nann

    I hear ya! I refer to my husband as “ridiculously healthy”. He has 12 years on me, but is able to do so much more. When he feels a cold coming on, if his schedule allows him to go to bed for 18-20 of the next 24 hours, it’ll be gone! It doesn’t upset me that he gets well so easily, but I am soooooo envious! I keep wanting someone to study him to find out what is RIGHT with his immune system!

    But, he’s been able to read my pain and/or fatigue in my eyes from the first month we knew each other – even when no one else had a clue. Some mornings he knows I’m in a lot of pain even before i realize it. So he does get that I feel awful without having been there himself. He’s told me he sometimes wishes he could live with my pain & fatigue for 3 days to understand it better – but ONLY for 3 days. he’s giving it back after that! lol

  • rose fultz

    Unfortunately I have several family members who ‘get it’. So when my adult children complain of unexplained aches and pains, I understand and remind them that it took years to get some answers. We know that others can’t make us feel better but the words they say can be so comforting at times…to be understood.

  • Yes, I wouldn’t wish what I have going on on ANYONE.

    Nice write!

  • Eri

    I passed this on to my bf, like I do with many articles I find on this site. Sometimes he smiles, sometimes he frowns and gives me a hug. Out of everyone, my family, friends, he can understand the most. He’s not sick but he’s been with me every step of the way, sat up with me when all I can do sob cause the pain is too much. Today when I linked him this article he asked me if I had written it. This hits so close to home it hurts. I cried while reading it, not a bad cry, but one that has me going this sucks, but I’m not alone. So thank you for taking the time to write this out. It means so much to me to know that people do understand exactly how I feel and think about being sick.

  • mo

    Sonja, As always great article! I enjoy alll your writings, and this one hit me right between the eyes…I have one of those brothers too!

  • Karen

    Thank you for this article. You always know how to put into words what I am going through. I love the support and encouragement it brings too.

  • Ive been lucky. None of my family understands but they have researched it. They will call me if there’s something on TV about fibro etc. None of them are sick, but they are supportive of my illness.

  • Janet Ballard

    Great article, Sonja. I have R.A. and complications from the meds which really make it difficult for me to function normally…it’s either the pain, the side effects of the meds or the anxiety from both, that shut me down. I’m always telling my friends and family that they really don’t “get it” but I’m glad that they don’t, because to understand they would have to live it themselves, and I pray that they never do. But it does get frustrating. Thanks for expressing so well what we all feel.

  • Ashley Morgan

    Wonderful article, Sonja!

  • Elspeth

    I have people in my life who also don’t get it. While I’m happy for them that they don’t know what it’s like, it can be so frustrating at times. They believe that this is only temporary and that I will get all better some day soon. With a primary immune deficiency, Ehlers Danlos, and a whole host of autoimmune issues, that’s not going to happen. It would be great if the autoimmune diseases would go into remission; however it hasn’t happened yet for any of them and I kind of doubt that it ever will.

  • Sonja, A very powerful post. Thank you for your words, they are so true, not only the frustration with family but also with friends. I also have family and friends that do not understand, when I can’t go out. I have Lupus, but also have MS. Especially in the summer when it is very hot, I can’t be out in the heat, or sun. The MS is effected with the heat, so I suffer in the summer. I can’t go out to family gathering, picnics, etc. I have to stay in doors with the A/C on. But everyone always says to me, come out, even if there is shade, I still can’t. So I do understand. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 <3

  • I know a lot of people like this. They simply do not understand. Although they may not show me much compassion when I am ill but I never wish that they have to find out what it truly is like.

  • Iris

    Wonderfully written article, Sonja. I totally “get it” and I am thankful for my online friends that don’t even know I am here. It’s articles like yours on this website that give me hope and inspiration and confirmation that “I am not alone”. It’s knowing that you are always there, if I need a friend when I am having a bad day. All your words ring true to me and I don’t even have a brother. I have a sister that lives in another state and I don’t think she really “gets it” and a wonderful husband that “gets it”, but I don’t want to burden him with my challenges every day of my life. It’s been over 3 years of trying to accept my challenges and keep moving on.
    I have a lot of compassion for you. I would like to write articles for this website and am not sure how to get started. I have so many thoughts to share. It is not easy to live a life in pain and very little energy, and of course, I don’t look sick..
    thank you for the great article!

  • This is putting words to what many of us feel. Thank you.

  • Carolynn

    I feel frustrations, as well. I was healthy until I turned 33- 3 days before, actually. People have trouble really understanding how much I have changed. They ‘forget’. I find myself feeling resentful, and then I feel bad for that, and remind myself to rise above… I don’t always succeed, but I try. It seems like a better use of my energies.

    But, it is nice to read this, and to truly acknowledge with people who Get It, that we feel frustration and resentment of our predicament. Thanks for that.

    And now, I’ve gotten to have my daily vent, and I can move on. 🙂 Thanks for that!

    I hope your brother learns to understand with compassion.

  • TungstenMouse

    Thank you for this. Sometimes I get so frustrated when my brother doesn’t understand (much like yours, he is extremely athletic, goes out all the time with friends, and just works through whatever small illnesses he gets). But I’ve never really thought to be thankful.