Have you ever wanted a superpower? Something that set you apart from everyone else and allowed you to do something special? At one point in my life, I thought it would be amazing to be able to become invisible with the snap of my fingers. Sort of a now you see me, now you don't trick.
In a way, I got my wish of invisibility, however, it wasn't in a form I would have ever expected. You see, I ended up with an invisible illness. You know, the kind where you may look well or "normal" to everyone else, but your still ill.
Several challenges come with having an invisible illness, starting with getting someone to recognize you are sick. You don't have a visible sign, such as a bruise, that helps people notice the pain you are feeling. You look normal, so this must be all in your head.
I know because I have been there. I also foolishly tried to keep up with my healthy friends, in part because I did not look sick. If they were going out on a hike, I would join them despite being in pain and exhausted beyond belief. If I were in a cast, I'm sure my friends would have slowed down or chosen something else to do. Seeing as I wasn't in a cast, they couldn't comprehend the pain and other issues that came with my illness.
We would start the hike together, only for me to soon be trailing far behind. My absence would be noticed, and the group would wait for me. However, once I caught up, tired and struggling, they would set off again. It makes sense from a healthy person's point of view because they managed to rest while waiting for me. From where I stood, it seemed cruel and unfair. Still, I would not give up, instead, I would drag myself to the end of the hike.
Why did I do this? Why do I still find myself doing this even though my friends know about my illness? I can tell you all sorts of reasons, however, the honest answer is that I am so used to keeping up with my healthy peers that it has become a habit.
This habit of mine does a disservice to everyone who has an invisible illness. People easily forget that which they cannot see. It isn't uncommon for people to forget about my illness. By insisting to keep up, I downplay my symptoms, which in turn misleads people regarding my illness.
I work on being honest with myself and my friends when it comes to my illness. I remind myself that I have a diagnosis. I remind myself this isn't in my head, I am not imagining what I am feeling.
The best gift we can give to ourselves, and those who care about us, is to remember that just because you cannot see it, it doesn't mean it isn't real.