I suppose my view is skewed. I suppose being on THIS side of the fence gives me a rather unique perspective of the human condition. It’s a perspective I would rather not have, honestly.
I have a few ‘invisible illnesses’. These are so named because the fact that you are sick is rather invisible to the outside world. They don’t see the pain you struggle with or the constant nausea. They get to see quite the opposite, actually. Most of us who struggle with these sort of illnesses hide them from everyone except our most trusted companions.
Why? Well, when you ask someone the typical small talk question of ‘How are you?’ do you truly want to know the answer? When someone seems out of sorts somehow and you ask them ‘Are you ok?’ do you really want to hear about it if they aren’t? Some people are sincere in their inquiries but most would rather not hear the litany of things you happen to be dealing with right at that moment.
I’ve been dealing with this long enough to have the time to observe others. Just recently, after a bout of illness kept me away from theatre rehearsal, I was asked ‘Are you feeling better?’ I knew she was being polite, and it really was sweet of her to ask, but I decided to answer honestly this time and replied ‘I never really FEEL BETTER. See I have this thing called gastroparesis and….’ if she had been the only one there I would’ve just stopped because she stopped listening after the words ‘feel better’. There were others who continued to listen and gave the usual ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so sad!’ reply. The original asker, however, had walked away in mid explanation.
Then there are the folks who seemed irritated with you for being ill. It’s an awful feeling when you stay home from work for extended periods and feel the glaring eyes as you walk through the door. No one asks you how you are. They stare at you or avoid you because they don’t know what to say or resent your frequent absences.
How do I know they resent my absences? Maybe I’m being paranoid? I’m not the only one at my place of employment with a chronic illness and I’ve heard the whispers from others. When we have early morning staff meetings I’ve heard them ask ‘I wonder if “Gina” is going to show up today?’ Little do they know, ‘Gina’ has been excused from all early morning staff meetings because of her condition. Some of us take a little more time to physically get going in the mornings. Every time we have one, however, someone always mentions ‘Gina’, asks where she is. If a person isn’t going to take the time to find out HOW a person is why do they care so much about WHERE a person is? I worked there for 4 years and in the almost three months since I left due to my illness, only one person has ever called me to see how I am. Not one of the people I considered friends has ever bothered with me since.
I hated walking into work.
I hate walking into anywhere that people are aware of the scope of my condition.
I hate walking into places where people are completely clueless about my condition because I know I will eventually have to explain it.
I hate explaining my illnesses.
I hate how lonely my illnesses have made me feel.
I hate the stark realization that I have no close friends.
I hate that I am putting all of this weight on my husband’s shoulders.
I hate that I am not the mom I used to be.
I hate that I drop out of the things I’ve committed to out of fear of getting sick.
I hate that the things I’ve dropped out of are the things I enjoy the most.
I am beginning to hate me.
If only my invisible illness could actually make me invisible.
Oh wait. It seems that it has.