I never liked or understood the terms invisible illness. Maybe it’s because I’m a natural science major. I only like tangible things. Things you can prove. I was so confused, when I heard the terms invisible illness. How could something that is supremely real, and very visible to me, be invisible to everyone else? I was searching for an answer to this for a long time. A real answer, the sort of answer that doesn’t have a thousand different opinions, meaning thousands of potential different answers. I wanted there to be a concrete “this is THE ONE AND ONLY answer to your question” because to me that meant that was the right answer.
I was looking at a friend’s blog page. She has a completely different unrelated illness than I do, but there was one way that connected the two of us. They’re both invisible illnesses. When we wake up every morning we both have the exact same thoughts running through our already overworked brains: “How are we going to have to validate our choices and decisions to people on ‘the outside’ who are judging us because they can’t see our illnesses.” Everyday we get up and we decide to LIVE. Is this living different than what you do every day? In some ways yes. Because we know what it’s like to get your entire life taken from you and what it feels like to have to fight for it to come back into your grasp, having it be just a little too far, to touch, but close enough to make you get that lump in your throat, when you see what you “could be, or should be doing” if only you were healthy.
When I came back my senior year of high school, was the first time I realized I was “different.” I tried to ignore it for all of sophomore and junior year. But when I came back after a semester and a half long hiatus, I realized, that I didn’t really recognize anyone. I recognized them physically, but so much had happened since I saw them last, that I really didn’t recognize them. I tried to go back right where I left off, but it wasn’t working and I knew that. I had decided to just be that “healthy girl” that I was so good at playing 8 months ago. Before a life changing stroke, happened to me. Before I had to undergo 15+ surgeries in those 8 months. I tried to pretend that the girl I saw in the mirror everyday wasn’t as foreign to me as she truly was. I tried to suppress the fact that she existed, because I didn’t want to admit that yes those 8 months had changed me, profoundly.
But after years of seeing a stranger when I looked in the mirror, I’m finally beginning to see it was ME all along. My illness may be invisible, but I can assure you I am not. I’m not healthy, but I’m living in spite of it. I’m the girl who chose to LIVE life in every sense of the word, with these life altering illnesses. People need to know that I’m not upset, I’m not bitter about what these illnesses have done to my body. Have they changed me? Yes. Have they taken things away from me? Yes, but I’m not going to snap my fingers and have them all come back. And I slowly realized that I’m not upset about having these illnesses, was I upset because of what they did to me? At first yes. But as time has gone on, I’ve opened up my heart more and realized when I did that, I opened everything. And became so much happier. I can finally say, I can look in the mirror, and not only do I recognize who I see now, I’m proud of her.