May is IBD awareness month, and to kick it off, I’m here to shed light on the Invisible Girl.
She fits right into any crowd, laughing at jokes, responding when spoken to, working (mostly) like anyone else, and appears to be just that- normal. Truth is, she isn’t. On the outside, you may see smiles, but on the inside, there’s pain. She looks like she walks and talks just fine, but inwardly, she’s fighting with each step to hold it together. Her social media may show a fun day with the family, but no one sees how she crashed soon after, stuck in bed with a bloated stomach and in pain for the next several hours.
That, my friends, is the Invisible Girl, living with an invisible illness. I’ve been told many times “you can’t tell by looking at you.” I mean, I’m glad I don’t LOOK the way I FEEL, because that would be a nightmare, but it can be a challenge when your illness is hidden. For instance, I’ve been in so much pain, that I can’t walk through a grocery store. Stuck in a wheelchair or scooter, I avoid the dirty looks people give me, assuming I’m some kid just messing around.
With friendships, often times I have to cancel or reschedule because of symptoms. This causes anxiety when it’s a new acquaintance. I explain my situation, but I worry they will assume I am just blowing them off. Granted, as I get older this happens less and less, but it’s occurred before. I was told that I wasn’t worth it, because I couldn’t make time for them. Well, I was sick as a dog and in need of surgery. I barely had time for anyone. I know canceling over and over and over grows tiresome for those who are healthy, but it can’t be helped.
At work, when symptoms flare, sometimes I can fall behind. My desk won’t be neat. Papers aren’t filed. I forget to respond to some emails. But people, for the most part, don’t see how hard it is to do what I am doing through the pain and fatigue. They see what I’m not doing. Fortunately, I work with some fantastic people, and they are understanding, but in that past I wasn’t so lucky. I was once told I was faking my illness in order to get out of work. I was pooping blood, bloated beyond recognition, and sat on the floor in tears because it was so bad. It took me bawling in front of customers (which I fought tooth and nail not to do) for the boss man to send me home.
There are times I’ve had to use the handicap restroom, because no others were available, and I just couldn’t wait. Sometimes I’m so desperate I beg people in front of me to let me cut. One time, I was in such a rush I started towards the same stall as an old lady. When I realized we were gunning for the same john, I stepped aside and apologized. Not only did I NOT get a “thank you,” but she gave me a dirty look and took the stall.
So the next time you see a young person in a wheelchair, or falling behind on work, or struggling with school, ask them what’s wrong, because they, too, could be fighting an invisible illness.