While this slogan works great for Nike, for those of us with invisible illnesses it’s not so simple.
Interacting with the outside world is a tricky business. It’s hard enough to keep up the closest of relationships. To be around those that share your space, your spouse, children or other family.
When we go out into that sea of “normal” people doing normal things, almost all of us look just like them on the outside. To strangers surely; but most of us have become so talented at acting that even our friends can’t see the truth of what is raging in our bodies and minds.
We’ve all heard them…classic responses from strangers, bosses, co-workers, doctors, friends and even family:
“If you just tried harder and went outside you would feel so much better!”
“You need to stop overthinking everything. It’s what’s causing all your stress.”
“Just get up and do ______.”
“Why are you so sad? Think about all the good things in your life.”
“How can you possibly feel so bad, you look great.”
“You’re too young to possibly be in this much pain.”
“You’ve been like this for so long. You just need to snap out of it.”
“Here, I’ve got some aspirin.”
One of my favorites was a boss who used to complain about how I spent too much time in the bathroom. In reality it was mostly digestive issues and having a place to cry in private. She didn’t have an answer when I asked how I should fix that.
These people, they look at us and see a “normal” person. They somehow can’t understand how we look okay and yet can be a complete mess inside.
I wish there was a way to educate people. To help them understand how to relate to those of us who can’t simply snap our fingers and be okay.
So my remember that none of us chose this. We are some of the strongest most resilient people around. It’s just that the constant weights we have to carry with us, they bog us down. They make it harder and harder to carry on the pretense of normalcy. It’s not our fault and all of us generally hold some sense of guilt (or shame and embarrassment even) for any time we “slip up” and can’t manage a task we thought we could, go to an outing that was planned or say something we wish we could take back.
I wish this issue could be treated the way other topics are, the one that comes to mind are all the commercials for how to talk to your kids about drugs. There are so many places you can go to get help. We should have that.
I know there are many helpful websites and such out there, and if anyone has one they know of, please add it to the comments and I’ll update this post.
What I mean is that the voice of this issue should be louder. I’ve seen on here notes that strangers have left on the cars of people with disability stickers, criticizing them for using a space that a “real” disabled person might need just because they didn’t look disabled enough.
I look forward to a day when compassion rules over skepticism.