People seem to be more open lately about invisible pain, sickness, disability, or mental illness. That’s a good thing. It means you don’t have to try to justify your existence as much. Maybe you could even share your problem with someone else (like your ever-so-compassionate boss!) and get a response that doesn’t include a dirty look or an attempt to one-up you.
Me, I’m just looking forward to the day when I will no longer be considered such a pain in the ass.
I hope that you, poor soul, whoever you are, can relate to this post.
I myself have a growing collection of problems: a mysterious foot pain, scoliosis, depression/anxiety, and focal epilepsy. And a little autoimmune thyroid disease thrown in. People can’t visually identify these things, except maybe my back, if you’re looking for it. I probably just look like a space cadet with bad posture. I am sure you are struggling with your own personal issues, which is why you’re still reading this.
When you suffer from an invisible illness, it feels like your body is a house that divides two realities, depending on which direction you’re looking through the window. On the inside, your furniture consists of all of your problems. From the outside, your house looks just fine. Maybe the siding needs a good power wash. You peer out, and see a mob reproaching you, at least based on their rolled eyes when you stick your head out the window and complain. You leave the window and head to the mirror to reproach yourself—Everyone says you’re fine! They have it worse! You’re a hypochondriac! You’re nuts! And you’re pathetic too!
But you can only play the pretend game for so long. You try and convince yourself to agree with them that you are not as bad off as you think, so you hide it and act like you’re fine. Meanwhile, you push yourself, and make your problem even worse. And because you feel worse, you start doing less. And what’s still worse, the more you hide it and play it off like you’re fine, the more suspicious it becomes when you finally come out and say you can’t do it anymore. You look like an excuse-making liar because why didn’t you say anything before if you’re in so much pain?
Even when you do get out of doing something, you still feel like an idiot sitting there getting the stink eye from everyone else. Plus, it’s not just me. There are other people at work who call out sometimes, and I know it’s because they’re sick. I try and stick up for them, but the managers are mad and don’t believe me, either. My goodness, if you don’t believe a disinterested third party who doesn’t really even like the person in question, whom are you going to believe? They don’t even accept doctors’ notes. You have to jump through the HR hoops if you need an accommodation. And dear God, if you thought they hated you before….
It’s all very guilt-provoking because you can’t pull your own weight and you know people complain about you. I know I’m annoying. I work in a department store, and the other morning, for example, I couldn’t open a large sliding glass door so I had to stand there while someone else did it in front of me. I wonder what the customers waiting outside thought. Typical retail worker, no doubt. Standing there pickin’ her butt. They don’t know—or care—that my spine resembles an S. Well, maybe I don’t care about them either. Maybe we’re all wrong in our mutual lack of caring. What does it mean “to care” anyway? (Although as customers I can guarantee you that I don’t care about them.) (And maybe it’s a little bit true that I purposely stay weak so I don’t have to do anything. But only a little true.)
That’s what’s so sad about this whole business. You feel invalidated when people say, Oh I hurt there too, I’m depressed as well, etc. But then there you’ve invalidated them right back. Maybe there really is an invisible wall between people, preventing us from recognizing the reality and extent of the pain of other people. We just can’t know and we keep going on hypocritically judging each other like we have a monopoly on pain. Can we ever tear that wall down without having been torn down ourselves to the point where we can finally grasp the concept of empathy and what it means to give the benefit of the doubt?
I’m just plain tired of being a nuisance to other people. But I’m also tired of pretending everything is great but making up the lamest excuses to avoid doing certain work.— I was going to delete that last phrase I wrote, “making up the lamest excuses to avoid doing certain work” and edit it because I am not making stuff up, but I’m leaving it because it just goes to show how a person starts to believe there’s nothing wrong with them and they’re just being lazy and annoying. I think what I meant to say is that I have to come up with excuses other than the truth because I fear the real explanation won’t be believed.
For example, if I’m irritating someone with my lack of comprehension and need to have something repeated five times, I tell them I have a bad migraine; I don’t tell them I have “brain fog” or “fibro fog,” because people know what migraines are and accept them as bad. I used to use the migraine excuse as well when I thought I was having panic attacks, because I was too embarrassed to tell people I was having a panic attack. It turned out the “panic attacks” were actually seizures—but then again, I wonder if I were to have one and tell somebody, would they believe me even though it wouldn’t look like the classic grand mal type?
I hope that with popular acceptance and belief, people will be relieved of having to hide what’s wrong in order to avoid being a burden and justifying themselves, and will no longer suffer from feeling like a liar, malingerer, hypochondriac, or nutcase.
I have to stop writing now because, uh, my toe’s broken.