Illness isn’t always visible or obvious. Sometimes people can look healthy on the outside, but be dying on the inside.
My name is Whitney, and I have battled with invisible illnesses.
I have more illnesses and diseases than I can even count.
I have been chronically sick for 5 years, and bed bound/ feeding tube dependent for the last 2.
For the first few years of my illness, I spent SO much time hiding the physical signs of my illness. Spending so much time on my make up to hide the effects of the illnesses on my appearance, spending what little money I had on wigs and extensions to hide my balding and thinning hair, and wasting my precious energy in attempts to prevent the inevitable…
Because in everyone else’s mind, if you looked normal/pretty, you weren’t sick….and I tried SOO hard to believe that and make it come true.
Obviously, as my illness got worse, I cared less and less about my appearance. As of late, I’m so sick I can’t even bathe without assistance. I had posted the picture on the right on instagram, and received the comment “ Y would you post a picture like. this you look like shit, do you know that?”
I have heard plenty of comments like that before. People wondering why I don’t do things about my appearance, pointing out how extremely pale I look, notice the bags under my eyes and tell me to get more sleep, suggest eating a hamburger due to how skinny I am, I’ve even had people question WHY I take pictures while I’m so sick, in the hospital, etc, and post them to social media, and why I don’t just wait until I’m better..
Because this is my life.
The picture on the right (no make up, sickly looking) is me. It is my life. I wake up in pain. My schedule revolves around pills. I see doctors more than my friends. I’ve had more surgeries than you’ve attended school years.
I take pictures while I’m sick because I will not give up. I’m not going to “wait” until I’m better or “pretty” to ‘live life’. I will document this difficult time of my life through pictures, social media and however else I feel necessary.
The first picture (full face of make up, healthy looking) was taken 4 days AFTER the other. It was 4 am, I was in too much pain too sleep, and all the comments about my appearance had finally gotten to me. I got out of bed and did a full face of make up. Before I got sick, I did that routine everyday in record time, without blinking an eye. It only took 30 minutes this night, but it took every ounce of energy that I had.
I looked in the mirror and was overwhelmed with sadness. My pain was still there. My illnesses had not magically disappeared, and the migraine that had kept me from sleeping was still pounding against my skull.
But I looked healthy. I looked fine. And according to everyone else, a little make up, and I would be cured. Things would be better. I knew it wasn’t true, but it was still unusually difficult to stare at the healthy looking girl in the mirror and know the true horror that was going on inside her body.
That is what having an invisible illness feels like. You look fine on the outside, but you know the truth. When YOU look in the mirror, you see the real reflection; the pain, the endless symptoms, medications, the real you. That behind the seamlessly normal facade, your body is literally killing itself.
Having an invisible illness is incredibly difficult. If you know someone fighting this type of illness, please be understanding. Don’t belittle their pain due to lack of physical symptoms or outward appearance. Don’t ask them to change their appearance, or actions just to make you comfortable, because you have no idea how difficult it may be for them. But most of all, just be there for them. Be a friend. Try to understand, be there for the hard times, and be there for the good times. Just be there, because they need you more than you could ever know.