For Family and Friends
Chronic vestibular disorders are hard enough to live with, but the lack of empathy from others can be devastating. It’s challenging to comfort and support someone when they never seem to get better, yet look perfectly fine.
Here are some ideas for how you can help family members, friends or colleagues with chronic dizziness and imbalance:
- Believe us when we share that we’re feeling unwell.
We may look fine, but just because our disorders have symptoms you can’t see doesn’t make them any less real. Trust us, we aren’t exaggerating or making things up. We don’t have the energy for such creativity!
- Ask directly how you can help.
Help is always appreciated, but there are many different types and variations of balance and dizziness conditions. Everyone’s experience is unique. Ask us what we need, please don’t think you already know. It’s probably not what you read when you Googled “dizziness.”
- Please don’t tell us, “It could always be worse” or “At least you aren’t going to die from it”.
We know you mean well, but saying things like this truly doesn’t make us feel any better. Keep it short and simple, perhaps saying something like, “I’m so sorry to hear that” or “I imagine that must be difficult to manage”, or "I hear you and believe you", or even “Wow, that really sucks.” When you are empathetic, we feel less alone.
- Don’t try to identify with us if you have absolutely no experience with what we’re feeling.
It doesn’t help to hear you go on and on about your mother or your boss or your neighbour who was always dizzy. They likely had something completely different.
- Take a little time to learn about dizziness and imbalance.
Browse this website – it is the most reliable source of up-to-date, evidence-based information written for Canadians about balance and dizziness disorders. Or read one of the books listed below – you’ll end up with a greater understanding of what it’s like to live with our conditions and how to help.
- Try not to be judgemental.
Chronic dizziness and imbalance is fraught with uncertainty. We’re probably not ghosting you if we don’t answer your messages right away. We want to have tea with you. We even truly want to do our fair share of the family chores. If we’re not up for something at the last minute, please don’t make us feel guilty or lazy. That only makes us feel worse.
- And above all, don’t give up on us.
The best thing you can do is to stick with us through thick and thin. It won’t cure our dizziness or imbalance, but knowing you’re in our corner will make it much more bearable.
In our own words
But You Don't Look Sick
One of our members, who is also a Society director, volunteer and our webmaster, talks about living with a chronic invisible balance and dizziness disorder. She shares practical ideas for how you can help people like her.
The Spoon Theory
Christine Miserandino’s personal story and analogy of what it is like to live with sickness or disability.
To Family and Friends of Those with Balance and Dizziness Disorders
Heartfelt plea for understanding written by Muriel Kauffmann, co-founder of Canadian Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society.
"What is Wrong with You?" (You Look Fine to Me!) [YouTube]
View a presentation by neurophysiologist Art Mallinson, PhD, directed at friends and family to help them understand why those with balance and dizziness disorders can look so good when they feel so unwell. Read a summary of the presentation.
Life with an invisible condition such as a vestibular disorder can be isolating. It is often hard to explain to others what you are going through when on the outside you still look the same. Physiotherapist Tori Etheridge talks about what you can do to help others understand your condition and be more supportive. Followed by Q&A.
Most of the titles listed are available for loan through public libraries in Canada. If your local library does not own a copy, ask for it to be sent from another library through interlibrary loan.
A convenient, informative way to educate loved ones about what people living with ongoing illness struggle with, fight for and need from their friends and family.
Insights and information about coping and living with long-term conditions.
Dr. Greenburg offers hope and practical advice to those impacted by a loved one’s chronic illness. Providing easy-to-understand explanations for complicated feelings and behaviour, this book will help you not just cope, but thrive, in your day-to-day life.
Page updated January, 2021.