16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

When you have a chronic illness and are only in your 20s, life can be a bit...interesting. Instead of struggling to juggle late-night partying with early mornings at school or work, you may just have a hard time getting out of bed every day. And as someone who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 11 years old and celiac disease at 16, I know how isolating it can feel to have health issues at a young age.

That's what inspired me to write this post about all the funny ways a chronic illness impacts a 20-something's life. My hope is that if you also have a chronic illness and are on the younger side like me, this post makes you feel less alone and reminds you that there are people who TOTALLY get what you're going through. And if you don't fall into this category but know a chronically ill 20-something...here's a little peek into what aspects of their life are probably like.

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

So without further adieu...here are 16 things that only happen if you're a chronically ill 20-something!

1. You're constantly being told, "You're too young to have *insert random medical problem here*."

I've even heard this from my dentist, y'all.

2. When you do find someone your age who understands, fangirling is inevitable.

Talk about spoonie partners in crime. (And if you ever feel like you need to vent to someone who totally gets it...don't feel shy about direct messaging me on Instagram!)

3.  Your wild Friday night involves refilling your pill organizer.

Am I the only one whose mind is kinda blown by the idea that some people don't own or need a pill organizer?!?!

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

4. Somedays, you don't know if you're tired from school and work, sick or having a flare up.

Eenie, meanie, minie, mo...especially if, like me, one of your main symptoms of being glutened with celiac disease is extreme fatigue.

5. You are an expert on the best TV shows to watch or the best books to read for hours (or days) at a time.

Because when a flare up hits, Netflix really is life. (And if you like documentaries, love food or are looking for something interesting to watch, check out my list of epic food documentaries on Netflix!)

6. You rarely go anywhere without your water bottle, purse or backpack (packed with some backup drugs).

I only recently discovered (thanks to my post about 15 Ways Anyone Can "See" My Invisible Illness, Fibromyalgia) that I'm not the only person with fibromyalgia who's always thirsty!

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

7. You're one of the youngest people in your doctor's waiting room.

Yes, thank you, I am in the right place.

8. You go to social events as soon as they start...so you can go home and take your sleeping pills at a semi-Godly hour.

You might say chronic illness determines my curfew.

9. You find fun ways to cope with or celebrate your chronic quirks.

For example, I'm a huge fan of Celiac Cutie's t-shirts, which I won in an Insta giveaway!

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

10.  Along with homework, your planner is full of chores like "make doctor's appt," "reorder pills" or "do PT exercises."

'Cause if it's not written down, it ain't getting done!

11. You're constantly balancing FOMO with FOPTH: fear of pushing too hard.

To be 100% honest...I do feel guilty for all the social invitations or grad school activities I say no to. But sometimes you just have to put your health first. And "little things" to other people - like going to a late-night reading or attending a busy dinner party - can trigger a flare-up or a couple of very bad days for us.

12. You have a routine or schedule you need to follow to feel your best...for better and for worse.

When you have a chronic illness, life often feels like a puzzle you're finding new pieces to every single day. And when you find daily activities that make you feel a whooooole lot better...you keep doing them.

Sometimes, it's hard for other people to understand that our somewhat "strict" routine is just our way of trying to set ourselves up for a healthier, happier life. But I can say from experience that the people who really matter will accept your quirky rituals. So you do you!

13. Dating feels a whooooole lot more complicated.

Because romance is complicated enough without having chronic illness as a third wheel. However, as I've said in previous posts (like 5 Gluten Free Lessons From a Celiac's First Relationship and 9 Hilariously Accurate Reasons to Date Someone with Fibromyalgia), finding a supportive partner is soooo worth all the time and effort you spend searching.

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

14. You've gotten pretty dang skilled at advocating for yourself!

'Cause no one knows better what you need than you!

15. You sometimes feel tired of explaining how real your invisible illness is, or that you won't ever "be healed."

One of the hardest things about invisible illnesses is that people can have a hard time understanding how serious your condition really is...and how much you might be hurting even if you look "fine." Ditto for explaining that chronic diseases can't be "grown out of," especially to people your age who might know even less about chronic illnesses than the average older adult.

16. BUT you've learned that you're a lot more resilient, strong and capable than you thought.

Can I get a "Hell yeah"?!? For sure, when you have a chronic illness in your 20s, life looks a lil' different than people expect. But your health challenges also make you one epic chronic illness warrior. And "normal" 20-something challenges like finding a job you enjoy or moving into your own place don't stand a chance when you've conquered so many other challenges in life!

16 Things That Only Happen If You're a Chronically Ill 20-Something

My Final Reminder to 20-Something's Living With Chronic Illness

No matter how old you are, it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to other people your age and to feel wrong or out-of-place because of your chronic illness. But know that you are not alone! In fact, six in ten adults have a chronic disease...and you might be surprised to discover you're not the only twenty-something in your friend group that can relate to this post!

What's one way your chronic illness makes your life a little quirky or unique? Tell me in the comments!


  1. This is so encouraging! I especially agree with getting to social events early. There are some people I rarely see because they are part of the second shift at parties. I can attest to the fangirling! I met a woman my age at a conference who had fibromyalgia, and I was so excited! We exchanged e-mails right away, and we still keep in touch! My calendar is full of doctor appointments. I even have time scheduled out to schedule appointments. I loved this post!

  2. I LOVE LOVE this! I couldn't relate more. This is my fangirl moment when I found a fellow young warrior ;)

  3. I really needed to read this today! Thank you.
    I'm on spring break from school. Before I got sick, I thought visiting my parents was a boring break, but this year I'm laying on the couch for a week (and seeing three doctors.) FOMO vs FOPTH is exactly my dilemma.

  4. Thanks for the informative list and sharing your journey. It is hard to have a chronic illness at any age but I get the "you don't look sick" comment frequently. Just another of my lessons earned.

  5. This is so true and informative at the same time. I can so relate. It has even given me inspiration to write a similar post on my blog. Thank you so much.

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