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Should I disclose my illness to my friends?

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a female high school student and am suffering from a disease. I’m worried about whether I should tell my friends about this.

Since I was young, I was seen as a perfectionist. The more effort I put into learning and sports to achieve good results, the more I was commended by other people. I was very happy to accomplish these things through hard work. I thought it was quite natural for me to do this.

However, some time ago I started suffering from health problems due to the hard work. When I visited a hospital, I was diagnosed with a well-known disease. Suddenly, I became sick of all things in front of me. I began feeling tired. I also started being absent from or late for school more often than before.

Each time, my friends expressed concern about me. As I didn’t want to tell them the truth, I’d always lie, saying such things as “I caught a cold,” or “I overslept.” In recent days, they just laugh and say to me, “Oh, you overslept again?” I feel tormented every time because I’m not telling the truth.

I want somebody to understand my problem. I’m also concerned their attitude to me may change if I tell them the truth. When I think about it, I feel I can’t tell them the truth.

M, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. M:

What is “the well-known disease” you mentioned in your letter? As you didn’t specify it, it makes me curious and inquisitive.

In response to your letter, I’d say that if you hide a fact, it sometimes causes other people to entertain groundless suspicions. Of course, having a disease is personal and you don’t have to disclose such information if you don’t want to. However, if hiding your disease causes a misunderstanding, you should disclose information to people who are close to you to help avoid a sticky situation.

First, tell them you suffer from a disease. Then, tell them you are in poor health and you are sometimes late for or absent from school because of this health issue. Also tell them you will return to normal as before if you get well.

I think fewer people generally have illness-related prejudices than before. Recently, many well-known people have publicly disclosed their health problems. Although it took a lot of courage on their part, the disclosure has been widely accepted by other people, who empathize with the hardships these well-known figures face and their efforts to fight them.

So if you explain your disease to other people, you probably will win their support. I recommend you first choose a person who you believe can understand your problem and then inform that person about it.

Soichiro Nomura, psychiatrist

(from April 28, 2016, issue)Speech

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