I live with an invisible illness. Most people have no idea what I go through every single day just to appear outside the house. With as many health problems as I have I am relatively functional, at least most of the time. I can still do a lot the things I need to do (though not what I want to do). I am out and about on a regular enough basis that no one misses me on the days I’m too sick to leave the house. Only my family knows the true impact my my illness because I can’t hide it from them like I hide it from everyone else.
A few weeks ago I was sitting in a theater waiting for a show to start. We had to get there an hour early to get a seat so in the time before the show I started up a conversation with the stranger sitting next to me. She was very friendly and we had a great conversation until the dreaded question came up, “What do you do?” We all know that really means, “what do you do for a living, because I’m going to judge you based on your answer.” I explained that I am not working at the moment (I don’t like to describe my health problems to strangers unless they seem interested). She was taken aback and silent for a few seconds while she looked at me. I don’t know what she was thinking, she may have been thinking I was a loser, or maybe that I was some religious weirdo who didn’t work because I wanted to home school my kids to prohibit the evil world from influencing them, or maybe that I was really lazy and just liked to mooch off my husband, who really knows that she was thinking? But the thought flashed into my mind, what if my illness was visible? Would the question even come up? Would it be a bad thing if people just assumed I was too sick to work? What would it be like if I was judged to be “sick enough?” For a moment I wished that I was sick enough for it to be obvious, just to I wouldn’t have to explain myself and feel like a loser while I was doing it.
I’ve repented of those thoughts since. The truth is I would much rather have an invisible illness than a visible one. I’d much rather people think I’m just lazy than for people to think I’m so disabled I can’t function at all, when neither is the truth. It’s really nice to be able to dress up on my good days, to go out and not be reminded that my life is different from anyone else. I’m grateful for not being sick enough.