If you know someone with Sweet’s syndrome (SS), please don’t say the following things to them. Unfortunately, they are things that people with SS hear all too often, and even though a few of them are well-meant, some are incredibly insulting.
What NOT to say to someone with Sweet’s syndrome!
1. ‘But you don’t look sick’ or ‘Are you faking it?’
The commonest symptom of SS is tender or painful skin lesions, but these are often covered up in some way, e.g. with make-up, by hair or clothing. Also, most of the symptoms of SS cannot be seen, but just because you can’t see them, doesn’t mean that someone with SS isn’t very sick or that they’re faking being ill.
2. ‘You should try this new diet or supplement. It can’t hurt to give it a try.’
SS is an autoinflammatory condition caused by errors in the innate system, and there is no special diet or supplement that can correct these errors. Sometimes, a change in diet or certain vitamins and supplements might help to improve overall health, but they are certainly not a replacement for proper medical treatment. Also, some diets and supplements can do more harm than good, and be very costly. For example, restrictive diets can lead to nutritional deficiency and health problems; certain supplements may not be safe to take or interact with medications; special diets and supplements can be something that many people with SS really can’t afford to buy, and their money could be better spent elsewhere.
3. ‘I’m too busy to get ill’ or ‘You need to keep busy and just get on with it!’
NEVER smugly say to someone with SS, ‘I’m too busy to get ill’. Being busy is not a protection against illness, and no matter how busy or in demand you are, illness can still affect you and stop you from doing the things that you want to do at any time. People with SS don’t choose to get ill, and even when they desperately want to just ‘get on with it!’, they can’t. Also, keeping busy isn’t going to make SS go away or lessen its impact, and doing too much can sometimes make symptoms worse.
4. ‘I wish I had the luxury of being sick so that I could stay at home all day’.
Being sick is not a luxury, and most people with SS would give anything to be well again. They do not enjoy being ill (do you enjoy it?), and can get very frustrated and depressed because they can no longer work or do the things that they once did. In fact, many with long-term SS go through a grieving process where they mourn the loss of the person that they were and the life that they once had.
5. ‘If you learnt to cope better or didn’t get stressed then you wouldn’t be sick’.
As already mentioned, SS is caused by errors in the innate immune system, and at present, there is no evidence to show that it is directly caused by stress. Some people do find that their SS gets worse when they are stressed, but this might happen for a number of different reasons, including their steroid medication being reduced or stopped. However, in others, their condition flares-up when they are not feeling stressed at all. Also, it is ridiculous to expect those with SS to avoid stress completely. Living with SS can be very stressful in itself, and for all of us, stress is part of everyday life.
6. ‘Don’t give in’, ‘Stop complaining’ or ‘Why do you have to be so negative?’
People with SS are not giving in or being negative when they admit to having a bad day or struggling to cope with their condition. They have the right to have a bad day, just the same as anyone else. NO-ONE can be upbeat, positive and optimistic all of the time, and having a moan or rant or even a bit of a cry can sometimes be very healthy. It can help you to release your feelings and reduce emotional stress.
© 2012-2017 Sweet’s Syndrome UK