The Things We Don’t Say


An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths



Chronically ill people don’t always talk about it. Until now.
Spanning different ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and diagnoses, forty-two authors from around the world open up in fifty true stories about their chronic illnesses and their search for answers, poor treatment by doctors, strained relationships with loved ones, self-doubt, and more. They share the warmth of support from family and friends, the triumph of learning coping mechanisms, and finding ways to live their dreams. These stories are honest, raw, and real, and if you have chronic illness, you will find comfort and companionship in these pages. For everyone else, if you have ever wanted to know more about your loved one’s experience with chronic illness but didn’t want to ask the wrong questions, this book will have some answers and lead you to a new-found understanding.
Blue background with brown outline of a head made up of thorns, in center of head is the titleThe Things We Don’t Say and below that the subtitle An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths, at bottom Julie Morgenlender, Editor

For those of us living with chronic illness, Morgenlender has given us a gift of belonging and connection to a universe of others who share our experience. Her authors remind us that we are not alone, that our pain and illness is real and that it is more than okay to take care of ourselves first.

Cindy Steinberg

National Director of Policy & Advocacy, U.S. Pain Foundation

At times gut-wretching, always fascinating, and sometimes humorous, The Things We Don’t Say should be read by everyone. It gives those who are suffering a voice and empowers them to see that they are not alone in the world.

Michael Frolichstein

Filmmaker/Podcaster, Founder of The Celiac Project

If you live with chronic illness or know someone who does, get this book! You will see yourself in these stories, and gain new insights and strategies for living well in spite of illness.

Jenni Grover

Creative Resilience Guide and author of ChronicBabe 101: How to Craft an Incredible Life Beyond Illness,

If you have ever felt alone as someone with a chronic illness and you want comfort and companionship, this book is for you. If you are looking for stories full of warmth, support, triumph, coping, and understanding, this book is for you. If you want to know that you are not the only one who has had to deal with self-doubt, strained relationships, and poor treatment by medical professionals, this book is for you. If you do not have a chronic illness and want to find answers for your questions and gain a better understanding of what your loved ones, colleagues, and strangers live with, this book is for you. If you are a medical professional, this book is for you. It is for all of you.

These stories are heart wrenching, heartbreaking, and heartwarming. They’re real stories of real struggles by real people. There are beautiful stories of acceptance, of growing stronger because of limitations, of having unbelievable resilience in the face of catastrophe, of friends, partners, spouses, parents and doctors with compassion. There are stories of hope and thanksgiving. I cried and cried, identifying with almost every author.

Shelia Bolt Rudesill

After reading, I came out with a renewed sense that I was not alone and that chronic illnesses are worth the fight, with many around the world also joined in fighting. I loved the accuracy and honesty with which chronic illness was described. Whether directly or indirectly affected by chronic illness, readers of all types have the valuable opportunity to learn and benefit from this book.

Maya Evohr

Once I started, I struggled to put it down. This is exactly the the book I would have liked to have had access to 8 years ago when I was first going through the beginning of my chronic pain journey. It is something I would have not read just once, but kept going back to. I had so many ‘yep’ and head nod moments as I completely understood where the writer was coming from. This book definitely helps the reader feel not so alone in the crazy chronic pain-filled life.

Michelle Finlay

Inside you will find:

  • An introduction by the editor.
  • 50 non-fiction personal stories by 42 authors who span different ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and diagnoses.
  • Links to bonus material.
  • Links to the glossary, containing definitions of 142 different terms.
  • A carefully curated index of 272 different terms.
Screenshot of one page of ebook on a tablet
Screenshot of one page of ebook on a tablet
Screenshot of one page of ebook on a tablet
Screenshot of one page of ebook on a tablet

I wanted to root for each author and tell them that they are heroes and sheroes. Some of these chronic illnesses may appear invisible but as author Jessica Ward writes, “hope is visible.” This book educates, sensitizes, supports and connects us all. It’s for people silently suffering with these illnesses and for those who know and love people who have them. The truths are complex, painful, at times terrifying, but most of all they are imbued with hope.

Maura Albert

I was blown away by this book! It has so many amazing stories that really show the full spectrum of emotions of living with a chronic condition. I think this anthology will help bring to light many aspects of chronic illness that are often left unspoken. This anthology demonstrates why I feel at home within the chronic illness community: it reveals the truths of living with a chronic condition with a kind of rawness that also consoles. It shows that it’s okay to not always be optimistic, and that expressing feelings of grief, loneliness, guilt, and fear can—in and of itself—be empowering. Pick up this book if you need a healthy cry, a reminder that you’re not alone, or stories that encourage and embolden.

Jenna Ziegler

Reading this anthology, I was quite surprised by how truthful and informative this book was to me. I’ve been suffering from chronic pain for over 20 years of my life, and yes, to paraphrase a writer in the book, you do forget what it’s like to not feel pain. This was a major realization for me, and it was just one of the things that I realized after reading this book. I gained so much knowledge and also understanding that it isn’t just me that is going through this. I want my family to read this because they don’t have an understanding of how badly I feel; not just physically, but mentally as well.

Maria Vita

​About the Editor

Aside from medical appointments for the then-undiagnosed pain she experienced, Julie Morgenlender had a fairly typical 1980s Boston-area childhood of scraped knees and lanyard keychains. Later, she got her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her master’s degree in linguistics from The University of California, Los Angeles­—she clearly liked universities with long names. Julie spent her short career in nonprofit organizations, before becoming too ill for office work. She then attempted self-employment, before realizing she was too ill for that as well.

Julie does not remember when or how she first thought of compiling this anthology but once the idea took hold, she could not let it go. After nearly a lifetime of feeling alone and misunderstood, she felt it was vitally important to share the hard truths about life with chronic illnesses. It has taken her nearly six years to create and publish this book, and she is glad she did it.

Julie lives in the Boston area and can be found walking up to strangers and asking to pet their dogs, crocheting on the subway, and sitting in medical practitioners’ waiting rooms.

Blue background with brown outline of a head made up of thorns, in center of head is the titleThe Things We Don’t Say and below that the subtitle An Anthology of Chronic Illness Truths, at bottom Julie Morgenlender, Editor