Everyone thinks they’re an expert on your health. People in the chronic illness community know this well; so does anybody who’s publicly admitted that they’re pregnant, or depressed. How many times can a person hear “Have you tried yoga?”
There’s probably no way to completely stop the flood of unwanted health advice, but here are some tactics to deal with it when it comes.
Thank them vaguely and move on
This works best for acquaintances and first offenders. If you argue that no, you should not suddenly adopt a vegan diet “just to see if it helps,” they will argue back. So don’t address the advice at all.
Instead, recognise that they are expressing, very badly, their frustration at feeling helpless in the face of your illness. Or perhaps they’ve been through a similar health issue and this is the brain fart that comes out when they try to empathise.
So thank them for the sentiment that they should have expressed (“I care about you, and I wish you were feeling better”) and immediately change the subject. You can also vaguely acknowledge their advice without saying anything about whether you intend to follow it. Here are a few lines that may help:
Thank you for thinking of me.
You may be right.
I’ll keep that in mind.
Remind them you already have a plan
When somebody offers their miracle cure, this may be the first that they have thought about how to handle a medical issue. You, on the other hand, have been dealing with it for a while — whether that’s with a team of doctors, with your therapist, or with google and your own unhealthy coping mechanisms. You don’t have to have a perfect handle on your situation to be able to tell somebody else to butt the heck out.
A curt “Thanks, but you’re not my doctor” will do the trick for strangers. For friends, maybe take a minute to explain that you have a treatment plan and that if anything is going to be added to that plan, it will be after discussion with your doctor and/or never.
Once again, do not debate the merits of their suggestion. If you think of your treatment plan as an exclusive club, and the friend’s advice as somebody who should not be admitted, position your doctor (or therapist or other relevant expert) as the bouncer. For the purposes of dealing with rude advice, it does not matter what your doctor actually thinks, whether you plan to talk to them, or if they even exist. You can shut down the conversation pretty well with one of:
Hmm, I’ll ask my doctor.
My doctor doesn’t want me doing that right now.
Shut it down
Some situations call for stronger responses. If an acquaintance messages you about your illness and immediately segues into trying to sell you supplements or essential oils, block them. (If they are a friendly acquaintance, tell them hell no, and if they persist, then block them.)
There may be some loved ones in your life who just don’t get it. If the situation is bad enough, you may have to set some boundaries: avoid talking to them, and if possible let them know why. But other times you’re stuck with the person giving the unwanted advice.
In those cases, even though you shouldn’t have to, it may fall to you to educate them. (If you have a friend who gets it, and is willing to step in, consider asking them to have this chat with the clueless loved one.) Acknowledge that they’re trying to help because they love you, explain that you really do have a care plan that you’re not going to add things to willy-nilly, and that constant unwanted advice is just adding to your stress.
When you talk to these people going forward, it may help to set and remind them of your boundaries. It’s ok to start a conversation with “Hey, can I just vent for a minute? I don’t want advice, just sympathy.”