For those new to the blog, I'm 5yrs into living with Dysautonomia, or Bob as I like to call it. Well five official years, if I look back at my photos pre-2006 I have a lot of sexy purple leg shots. And if I look back over my life I have had periodic symptoms since my teenage years.
I am also living with:
Degenerative disc disease,
A mutant jugular vein called Jeff,
Boobs that persist in growing in places there not supposed to, and popping out painful cysts and fibroadenomas like randy rabbits.
And if I ever pull my finger out to get an official diagnosis, Ehler's Danlos Syndrome.
To top it off I now have my delinquent gut, for which I am still looking for answers.
In other words, I have the Ford Pinto of bodies.
Apparently, I simply "don't look sick". I also don't act like a sick person, whatever that means. Foiled once more by my own Oscar worthy acting abilities. The logical conclusion to this being, people think you're either not sick, or not as sick as you claim. Which is understandable, right? Because all real illnesses are visible. You know, like Diabetes or heart disease. Because their years of no medical training, makes them experts at spotting and diagnosing illness. (Okay, I may still be a little bitter about a few people).
It doesn't help that I was stupid enough to pick the obscure disorders. The kind that no one, not even most doctors, have heard of. And if it's not enough that they are obscure, they are also complex. All of which adds up to yet another layer of invisibility to contend with.
What's a girl to do?
Should I highlight the black circles under my eyes?
Should I lie dramatically on a couch and moan?
Should I "woe is me" at every opportunity?
Would that make my invisible illnesses more real?
Maybe for other people, but not for me.
I live with it everyday. They are very real to me.
It is real when I can't string a sentence together.
It is real when I can't open my eyes due to the excruciating pain in my head.
It is real when I have to lie on the tiles in my bathroom following a shower.
It is real when I can't feel when I've cut my legs when shaving, or burn my hands when cooking.
It is real when I have to hold my hips in with my hands when exercising.
It is real when I am bent over the toilet in a public bathroom because the nausea is so bad.
It is real when I lie in bed unable to sleep because my feet are burning to the point where I cry.
It is real when I pop a disc in my back because I have a scan at my local hospital.
It is real when I can't coordinate my legs to walk properly.
It is real when I grab the wall or have to stick my head between my legs because I simply went to the loo.
It is real when I can't get cool in the middle of Winter and must put on an airconditioner.
It is real when I can't exercise because it causes my bp to drop.
It is real when I can't feel the pedals in the car through my shoes.
It is real to me in a million other ways that I could list, but that most people will never see, or understand.
Disbelief and dismissal cut deep. They attack the spirit. Heard enough times, they are internalised until the criticism comes from within as readily as it comes from without.
It must be in my head.
I must try harder.
It is my fault.
There are others worse off than me.
I am not worthy.
Acknowledgement isn't about pity, it's about compassion.
Just because you can't see someones suffering, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
Just because you don't understand, doesn't make it less real.
Compassion costs nothing.
But is priceless to those who receive.
And is a gift to those who choose to give.
Here's a little post I wrote a couple of years ago.
Dysautonomia: Invisible Illness My Arse.