Mental Health

Ask Ada: How To Get My Family Back On ‘Team Mom’ After Illness?

Plus: what to do when a family member believes you've just 'given up' about your illness.

Welcome to Ask Ada, Folks’ bi-weekly advice column for people impacted by health issues or disability. Want Ada to help you with a problem? Email Ada at or tag @folksstories on Twitter with the #askada hashtag.

Why Won’t My Family Support Me Running A Marathon After Lupus?

Dear Ada,

Physical activity is very important to me. I’ve always made an effort to go to the gym or walk/run every single day and my family has always been very supportive of this. I mention this because I have Lupus, and my autoimmune flare ups take a lot out of me, so I have a lot of pride in the effort I take to be as healthy as possible.

Here’s my conundrum: I recently signed up for a full marathon, and I need to do even more training. I’ve run many 5Ks and 10Ks, but I’ve never run this long of a distance, so I have a lot of work to do. However, my husband and kids are making this so hard on me. No one wants to give me more time for practicing, and everyone gives me such an attitude about my training and my time away from them. How can I get them to be more respectful to this commitment I’ve made?


Running into problems

Dear Running,

It’s time to get your family to join Team Mom.

I don’t know how you announced that you were running a marathon, but it doesn’t sound as if it was very effective. Instead of turning your children and husband into your cheering squad, it had the opposite effect.

Let’s regroup. First, make an effort to reset everyone’s frame of mind about your new commitment. Call a family meeting. Let them know how excited — and nervous — you are to train for and run this race. Talk about why you consider it to be such an accomplishment, about what is motivating you to take on this challenge. Get your kids some books about running. Watch some marathon movies with your husband. Put in the effort to excite them about your new undertaking.

I’m sure you understand that a change in schedule and availability shakes up a family. Your children and husband voicing their frustrations doesn’t mean that they don’t support you. They’re just speaking or acting out because their lives are being interrupted by your commitment. They’ll be able to adjust their lives to accommodate you, and it’s a lot easier to make this happen when they feel involved and excited for you.

A marathon might be a solo sport, but as a mom and wife, you’re not running this race alone.

After the “team meeting,” be firm with your family about what it is you need from them. Is it that you need more time for yourself to train? Do you need more emotional support for this new undertaking? Maybe both? Before making any changes, try to figure out a schedule that will work for both you and your family. This may mean that you have to wake up while everyone else is sleeping to train, or it might mean your husband needs to take on some of your responsibilities, such as driving children to their activities, so you can run during those hours instead. 

Besides the time you’re asking for, think of the other ways you can involve your family to keep them encouraged. Can they make signs for the big day? Since most marathons involve fundraising, maybe your children can pitch in with a lemonade stand? Will they be willing to set up at certain checkpoints at the end of your training to clock your time or offer hydration? 

A marathon might be a solo sport, but as a mom and wife, you’re not running this race alone. Let your husband and children be part of your training, and you’ll find that Team Mom is all the support you could ever need.

Angry woman looking at camera beside her friend sitting on a couch in the living room at home

Sicker Than Thou

Dear Ada,

I feel like I’m competing with my sister about who is sicker than the other. We’re both in our thirties, and unfortunately, we’re both very physically unwell. She has crippling arthritis and I was in a car accident that led me to having a surgery which went wrong and now I have immense pain. I’m completely disabled now — I can’t work, and honestly, this has lead to a deep depression. My sister is able to work and I feel like she holds this against me. She always has something negative to say, like how she’s a hard worker and gets out of bed regardless of how hard it is for her (Implying I’m not trying hard enough). She’s even said things like “Well, at least I’m not giving up and just allowing myself to be disabled.”

How do I deal with this? I didn’t give up. I’m a victim here. Someone else hit my car and because of that event, I feel like my whole life was taken away from me. I don’t want to be disabled. I wish I could make more money than my disability checks and do more with my life. I’m tired of “competing.” How do I make her stop?


Sicker Than Sister

Dear Sister —

If you want to stop competing, pull yourself out of the game. 

Think about it: competition occurs when two people want the same goal, but that goal cannot be shared. In your case, your sister is trying to achieve the “most ill” label in your family, and to do so, she needs to put you down. Yet, you’re still participating in the competition by either absorbing her negativity or arguing back with her. If you don’t react, she won’t get the satisfaction of her remarks.

To move forward, my suggestion is that you stop seeing yourself as “the victim.” Yes, you’re completely right. Something major happened that altered the course of your life. You didn’t ask for it to happen. It was an accident, and of course you wish that things would be different. You have every right to grieve the life you expected that you no longer can have — you’ve experienced a major loss. So grieve that loss. Really feel it. Better yet, work with a counselor to process your loss and how it’s shaped your new life.

To move forward, you need to change your mindset before you can change your circumstances with your sister. 

Your sister obviously knows that you feel depressed about your circumstances. She’s taking advantage of you by exploiting these feelings. While you’re working on your own frame of mind, you can avoid your sister, but I really hope that at some point you will confront her directly. 

Tell her that you’re hurt and frustrated by the jabs she throws at your about your health. Set clear boundaries with her about how you’re willing to be treated, and what type of communication you feel is appropriate moving forward. Reinforce that you’ll no longer accept a relationship that isn’t based on love, kindness, and mutual respect.

Either enforce boundaries and demand that she stop competing, or distance yourself from her completely. You need a support system not a spiteful sister.

Are you facing a problem that is being complicated by a health condition or disability? Folks’ advice columnist Erin Ollila wants to help. Email and tell us your problem.