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Why What You Can’t See Hurts You the Most

This Is Why I Can’t Do The Things Everyone Else Can

Trinity Krueger

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All pain and all diseases are not obvious or even visible. Invisible illnesses, or hidden disabilities, are a whole other spectrum away from the ailments the majority of the population has. People with some kinds of invisible disabilities, such as chronic pain or some kind of sleep disorder, are often accused of faking or imagining their disabilities. These symptoms can occur due to chronic illness, chronic pain, injury, birth disorders, etc. and are not always obvious to the onlooker.1 People sometimes have difficulty understanding how my symptoms, such as extreme fatigue, dizziness, and pain, can be so debilitating to me but claiming I’m not able to do things because of these symptoms can even be met with hostility by society at large. As a people, I think we should break the stigma surrounding mental and invisible physical illnesses.

 

“I am trying as hard as I can.” I say this over and over in my head at least a hundred times a day. I wish it was out loud, although, no one would understand what I was talking about. As a seventeen year old, “healthy-looking” girl, most people wouldn’t expect that I have a very long list of invisible illnesses holding me back which I have been suffering from my whole life. Why am I so scared to tell people this? Why do I suck it up everyday and do what everyone else does instead of explaining why I can’t? The simple answer is stigma. No one can deny there’s a stigma that goes hand in hand with mental and invisible illness, even at school. People would treat me differently or say that I’m just faking these symptoms to get out of class. “You often times do not look sick or act sick, leading others to believe that you are just fine. So when you try to talk about how you’re feeling, others look at you and think you are a complainer, a pity seeker, a negative, toxic person, etc. I myself was silenced many times, and believed the criticism about me to be true. My self-confidence dwindled. I blamed myself for not handling the disease as others thought I should be. My brain became a playground for negative and critical thoughts about myself. I blamed myself for things that were not my fault, and I shouldn’t have. And you shouldn’t either.”2

 

This is why I can’t try in P.E. Just a couple things that I deal with on a daily basis are: chronic pain, depression, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, chronic migraines, anxiety/panic disorders, vasovagal syncope, and low blood pressure. Most teachers are understanding of my ailments and let me step out if I need or drown myself in music if need be, but there are always doubters. To the ones who say I’m fine and write me off as just trying to skip work or play on my phone; I invite them to have a depressive episode, an anxiety attack, or even have one fourth of the pain I experience on a daily basis. They wouldn’t make it. Some may, but not most. I want people to understand that this isn’t fake. I want to teach people to trash the stigma they may have. Writing this is the only way I could muster what courage I have left to talk about it. Being a kindergartener, or even a teenager, with these illnesses is overwhelming to the point that I can barely bring myself to stay standing. I wish people could see what goes on in the heads of people like me.

 

Now, people who think these are fake, please come up to me and tell me more. If you were to say: “The kids in this generation are such pansies, there was never this much mental illness in my time.” I, of course would say, “Yes, well, the stigma behind these illnesses was much stronger then, there were still as many people affected, but they mostly went undiagnosed and ignored.” The only person who knows what you feel inside is you. No one else can tell you what you feel. Anyone who thinks they can is just ignorant and you don’t have to listen to them.

 

We have come a long way, but we still have work to do. To stop the stigma of invisible illness, we must start talking about it. We have to normalise people having them. Everyone, including myself, with debilitating mental or unseen deserves your belief and respect. Just because you can’t see their pain doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Only you can decide what’s real. What if you were the one no one believed?

 

 

 

1https://www.umass.edu/studentlife/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/Invisible%20Disabilities%20List%20%26%20Information.pdf

2https://themighty.com/2017/12/stigma-of-invisible-illnesses/

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Why What You Can’t See Hurts You the Most