Doubters and skeptics like to question whether you are “really” sick, or just having a bad day. Or having a hard time concentrating. Or just not eating that much lately. Or needlessly stressing about things.
- Ask questions.
Many people are simply ignorant about issues. Before starting an argument or an attempt to provide information, find out how much they know (or think they know) and where exactly they stand on an issue. It’s much easier to tailor your discussion that way.
- Provide information.
Conspiracy theorists and those that know enough to be dangerous aside, most people respond well to facts. By now, you probably know information about your specific ailment, enough to explain the basics to your friend or skeptical stranger.
- Use more familiar diseases.
Perhaps someone is not familiar with fibromyalgia, but they are aware of anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and the other symptoms that make up the issue. Use the information the skeptic already knows to explain your condition.
This is also useful in discussing medicine. Most people agree that a diabetic should be on medication to take care of herself, but those same people may disagree that someone with a mental health disorder needs medicine. Explain that both are issues of body chemistry, and both often need to be corrected with medication, not just lifestyle changes.
- Look at history.
Disease has been a gray area throughout human history. We’ve gone from blood-letting with leeches to electroshock therapy to chemotherapy as our understanding of illness has changed. Many from an older school of thought believe mental health disorders are unnecessary “new-fangled” developments: if I got through life without a diagnosis, so can you!
Point out to the doubter that they are, frankly, behind the times, and that science and medicine agree your problem is real.
- Be straightforward.
Sometimes people are just jerks, willfully ignorant, or know-it-alls. While you may consider it a personal crusade to spread mental health awareness (and I can relate), sometimes the only thing you can say is, “You know, I don’t appreciate you taking my illness lightly. I appreciate your right to disagree, but I hope you and your loved ones never have to experience what I do.”