Guess what’s happening September 10th-16th? It’s National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week! It’s a mouthful to say, but as a person who has an invisible illness, I’m going to write post about it.
For some background, the term “invisible chronic illness” refers to any condition without visible symptoms. Here are some examples, and I know that I missed some.
Allergies, Arthritis, Cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain, Mental Illness, Diabetes, Digestive Disorders, Migraines, Heart Conditions, Dysautonomia, Infertility, Lupus, Lyme Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Neurological Diseases, Pain Management, Thyroid Disorders.
Invisible illnesses are funny things. They make you feel terrible, they might make you question your sanity, and they usually take a lot of time, doctors, and tests to diagnose.
I like invisible illness (II) awareness because it encourages people to stand up for themselves when it comes to their conditions. I don’t like II awareness because in my opinion, it can foster a “poor me” attitude. Yes, having postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is really frustrating sometimes. No, I do not expect others to understand and cater to my situation. I expect them to be respectful, because that’s just common courtesy. Do I expect others to refrain from saying, “You don’t look sick!” or “Why aren’t you doing ____?” No, I don’t. Getting angry or defensive toward these people, or even trying to “educate” them is, quite frankly, a waste of my time and energy.
The thing about us humans is that we’re selfish. We don’t take others’ trivial needs into their consideration because we’re too busy worrying about outselves. And that’s okay. Have I been selfish before? Yes. And so have you, whether you’re willing to admit it. Telling masses of people all about invisible illnesses and how they should have sympathy for illness sufferers won’t change anything. I don’t expect others to help me out just because I have an invisible illness. Expecting all this special treatment for life’s little inconveniences is a little far-fetched. If I want something, I find the person who can help me and I ask politely for it. People will generally help you if you ask, and if someone doesn’t, then either re-evaluate whether your request is logical or go ask someone else until you get what you need.
I hate using the word “sufferer” to describe myself. Suffering implies that I’m utterly helpless and distraught and struggling. I don’t “suffer” from POTS. I don’t particularly enjoy having it, but I don’t let it get me down. I fight it tooth and nail. I take my pills not because I give in to my illness, but because they help me fight it. I ask for help from people who I know care about me. I ask not because I’m weak, but because I’m strong enough to know that my illness is not at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I don’t let POTS define me, and I don’t feel sorry for myself. We all have our weaknesses, and mine just happens to have a name and a treatment. In that respect, I’m lucky.