The truth is that I look like any other college student. But on the inside, I’m in pain, depressed, frustrated and at a loss. If you never saw me with a mobility aid, you would never know that I’m “different.” But when you see me with my walker or cane, I stand out and I constantly get judgy looks. I have “invisible disabilities,” keyword being “invisible.” You can’t see them from the outside, but when I look in the mirror that’s all I see. I see my pain, nausea and fatigue, but these things are invisible to everyone else. You either say that I’m too sick, or not sick enough, but you don’t see or feel my sick. When I wake up in the morning, I cover the bags under my eyes with concealer, try to decide if I really need my mobility aid and cover up my KT tape in hopes that it will all go unnoticed, because when it’s noticed people say things. Although this is my life, people have decided that they can ask me all sorts of personal questions because I’m “disabled.”
“What’s your diagnosis?” Someone asks while I wait in line for pasta. “Do you really need that?” Someone asks while in the elevator, pointing at my cane. “Urg, I wish I could have that excuse,” someone says when I tell my professor I’ll be out of class for yet another medical procedure. “She’s the girl with the cane,” people say to identify me. When I faint in class, people assume that I’m just bored—never questioning the girl with her head down for five minutes. Although my disability is invisible, your reaction rarely is.
The truth is: I’m not lazy, I’m constantly trying; wishing that when I wake up tomorrow this will all just be a terrible nightmare. That tomorrow I will wake up like you. But I’ve been wishing that for the past year and a half, so it’s time to give up on that wish. Things that you can do without a thought take all of my energy, like showering, eating or getting dressed. The truth is, I don’t want the attention, and I most certainly don’t want the pain. I don’t want to have allergic reactions to literally everything and nothing. I don’t want to always have to keep a bag on me with an EpiPen, inhaler and emergency meds. I want to be able to eat like a “normal” person. I should be able to focus on my classes but instead I’m juggling doctor appointments, medicine changes and fighting with insurance.
In all of this, I have come to terms with a new normal—my normal. Being happy when I wake up without any hives. Being okay with nausea as long as I keep the food down. I have learned to appreciate the good days, the days when I can go on little adventures with friends. Although they are different than they would have been before I got sick, they still fill me with joy. Most of all, I have grown a huge appreciation for my friends and family. The truth is that I have lost so many friends, people who didn’t want to be with someone like me. But those who stayed showed just how amazing they are.
I am not writing this so that you feel bad for me, because as I’ve already stated I don’t want the attention. I’m writing this to remind you that you never know what someone is going through. Check in on your friends. Give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know, they could be fighting invisible battles just like me.