The other morning, at my favourite cafe, a Reiki healer quietly slid her card across the table.
"Excuse the interruption, but I can't help but feel I'm in the right place at the right time," she told me. I had been quietly sobbing (at least I thought it was quiet) in a hushed conversation with my mum about some shattering blood results.
The stranger thought she was offering me the missing link to healing. And, I suspect, she thought she'd make a buck or two in the process.
This is not an isolated event. I'm a person with two invisible illnesses: one rare, and the other not-so-rare (but still a colossal pain in my behind). They're known as Addison's and Graves' Disease respectively — give them a google if you get a minute.
Despite this, my body does a pretty stand-up job of appearing "healthy" to the average, undiscerning eye.
So when strangers learn that it's anything but healthy, I'm regularly met with wildly presumptuous prescriptions from those entirely unqualified to be offering them.
For me, "helpful" advice lurks around every corner.
There was the medical cannabis company in my inbox, recommending their product take the place of my daily cortisol replacement meds (without which I would very quickly drop dead).
Or the woman at the beach, with whom I was having a perfectly pleasant conversation while my toddler ate handfuls of sand. She inquired if I'd tried "healing myself" as an alternative to my upcoming thyroid surgery.
I know you might be thinking: these people mean well (maybe not the medical cannabis people; arguably, they just see dollar signs).
But if that's true, they need to know what it's like to be on the receiving end.
Because when I'm met with suggestions that are completely indifferent to the complexity of my conditions, what I hear is: "Your health, and consequently your body, is an abject failure, and you're not doing enough to fix it."
This speaks to an entrenched and harmful belief system: one where healthy, thin bodies are duly awarded to those who deserve them — those with the "grit", "drive" or "willpower" to earn their prize.
So, if you're fat, disabled, chronically ill or otherwise, it's only because you're not doing enough to not be that way.
Ironically, my health maintenance is close to a full-time job, and there's nothing related to a "healthy lifestyle" that I haven't tried. So, I can tell you with absolute certainty, there's a limit to what diet and exercise can do for you.
Many of us with chronic illness know first-hand that the body is not a meritocracy, and it will pretty much go its own way, no matter how much kale you shove into it.
I'm not suggesting alternative therapies aren't beneficial.
I'm a huge advocate of trying things that make your body feel better, work better or sleep better. And there are certainly some complementary therapies that, when used in conjunction with evidence-based medicine, have a positive impact on quality of life for chronically ill patients.
It's when they're offered unsolicited — or as an alternative to life-sustaining, evidence-based interventions — that it becomes either insulting or downright dangerous.
There's also the question of financial ethics. It's sticky to talk about, but impossible to ignore when many of these therapies or supplements cost more than a medical specialist appointment.
The bottom line is good health is a privilege. It's bestowed upon those with good genetic fortune and can be maintained with the help of an actual fortune — opening the doors to private healthcare.
Look, maybe I'm dead wrong. Maybe there IS a cure out there for everything, we sickies just haven't cut out enough gluten or meditated long enough to find it. But I really don't think I am.
And if you're still not convinced that health is something of a game of chance, I would invite you to consider the paediatric ward at your local hospital, the oncology department next door to that, or the people in your own life who seem to have drawn the short straw health-wise, despite doing everything right.
I know how exhausting it can be trying to work out the best thing to say to someone having a tough time. And we get it: you really want us to be well. It's a lovely thing to want that for someone else, so thank you.
We want it for us, too. Like, a lot. Sometimes we cry about it, sometimes we fall into internet search rabbit-hole, and other times we consult our highly qualified team of specialists for their expert opinions on what might help.
So, before you go to say something that might undermine our reality, try to imagine the added labour of explaining our bodies' incredibly complex system failures again and again.
Instead, try directing your curiosity towards our lived experience. Ask us what it's like living the way we do, what helps and what doesn't, and maybe tell us we're doing a good job of staying alive (we love that).
Or, alternatively, gently let us know you think our child has now consumed enough sand to start his own beach and it might be time to head on home.
Hannah is a freelance journalist and lifestyle writer of features and op-eds on women's health, parenting, and stories that cast a sceptical eye on the wellness industry. For better or worse, she is not on Twitter, so you can find her on Instagram at @han.vee.