Since being diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, Endometriosis and Pelvic Floor along with Depression and Anxiety, I feel like most people have stopped seeing me. They seem to only see the disabled girl with Chronic pain and diseases that have no cure.
When I am introduced to someone new the words and phrases people use to describe me makes me feel small. They make me feel like I am not doing enough to “make myself better.” When they talk about me, they only seem to see the endless stream of tests, doctors, surgeries. They have stopped seeing me and now see me as “The girl with Chronic Pain.”And it makes me feel like I need to push myself harder when in reality I already push myself beyond my limit every single day just to try and have a sliver of the life I once had.
My illnesses are not usually fatal and sadly I’ve come to realize that if you are not in danger of actually dying then people don’t feel the need to help you or use their own energy and resources to help you. This may sound harsh, but I am finding it to be more and more true. When most people hear that someone has a “Chronic Illness” they know that it is most likely going to “drag on” forever so there is no reason to try and help you if you are going to live with your disease forever if there is no cure.
People with chronic illness face a lifetime of pain, exhaustion, and disability. A lifetime of people telling them to get over it, of people telling them they they are too depressing to be around, a lifetime of failing to meet everyone’s expectations, but that is not enough to attract anyone’s attention. Nobody would ever tell a cancer patient to just get over it and stop dwelling on their illness, but people with chronic illness hear this practically every day and that is ridiculous. It is also very hurtful to hear and some of us hear it over and over from our family and friends who cannot understand how we can be fine one minute and then the next we are curled up on the floor or the couch in pain.
I know for s0me of the best people I have ever met, those who have struggled with not having a diagnosis for years, finally having a name for their symptoms and illnesses is incredibly validating.
Once you finally have a name to what is wrong with you, it makes it much easier to treat it, or at least manage your symptoms and pain. But along with the names of your illnesses and symptoms also comes judgements; at least it does in my life. Some people research your illness and learn at least a little about it so they can help you deal with the emotional part of it and be there for you but then there are those who search google and find places that, for a one time payment can “cure” your disease, or this new medicine that is on the market that has amazing reviews online for being natural or articles by people that have “cured themselves completely using ____” or how thinking positive and talking about your feelings you can convince your body that you don’t have an illness and can therefor “cure” yourself. But then they get upset when you don’t read all the “research” they did or do everything they think you should be doing because the internet says it will help you.
I have only had my illnesses for a little over four years, but in that time I have come across so many others in support groups and illness forums that sometimes say they wish they could have a disease like cancer because people with cancer get support from family, friends, even sometimes people they just met. People seem to care more about cancer and they don’t care much if at all about chronic illness because it will go on forever. It’s Chronic. Most Chronic Illnesses have no cures, only treatments so some people will just assume it will be the same thing every day so why bother helping if it is going to be a never ending process?
For me there are not any words on the planet that adequately explain how difficult it is to be disabled by an illness that no one believes is real. For people to not understand how you can look fine on the outside and be smiling but be hurting on the inside. For people to understand how you can do a certain amount of things one day then the next have no energy to do anything, sometimes even getting out of bed is a challenge. For people who can’t understand how you can be fine one minute then the next you are in severe pain. Not to mention the insurance companies will pay for cancer treatment, they won’t pay for most chronic illness treatments or medications. Most of us have to come up with the money out of our own pocket to pay for a medication that may help a tiny bit or not at all.
We are people first. We are still human beings who have feelings and hate that some people have stopped seeing us as a person, but now see us as our illness or our symptoms. It is very hurtful for many of us. We just want some understanding. Some support to know we are not alone. I know my expectations of family and friends can just be silly, but is it really too much to ask for some support even if they don’t believe that I am sick? I could really use some support as I am going through this hard part in my life. I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone, and I do everything I can to be supportive of family and friends even if I don’t agree with their lifestyles or choices. Is it so hard to expect them to extend the same courtesy to me?
The words people use to describe others are important. Based on descriptions and words from other people, when you meet someone new you usually have already formed an opinion based on what others have told you about them. For those of us with Chronic Illnesses, most people automatically come to the conclusion that we are different, that we will never be like them because we have a different life then they do. Most people assume that we will never want to hang out because we hurt all the time. So they stop asking us to go out places. Stop calling. Because in their mind we are disabled, therefore we spend all our time sleeping or trying to feel better. They have already made up their minds about us based on one word. Disabled.
They fail to see how hard we try to still have even a tiny fraction of the life we had before our diagnosis and symptoms started coming around uninvited.When they hear the word disabled most people assume that we sleep all day, don’t get anything done, never go anywhere. They never bother to ask us what our days are like, because what they know about disabilities is what the internet has made us seem like to the outside world. Lazy. Selfish. Attention seeking. Pain pill addicts.
It never occurs to them that if they bothered to even look up our illnesses that we can still do a lot, just not all at once. Hearing the word disabled used to describe someone, most people immediately think of someone in a wheelchair or someone with severe limitations in their movement and their lives. When they see someone like us who looks fine on the outside but still ‘claims’ to be disabled, they get this look on their face like we are horrible people because we are ‘lying’ about our illness. They don’t understand how can we be sick if we look fine on the outside. Society has made us ‘disabled people’ seem like we are just wanting money and free medical care and pain medications from the government. And its rare that someone actually tries to form their own opinion of us instead of believing the internet or the opinions of others that claim they know more about our diseases than they do. They believe the internet or other people because it is easier than getting to know us and trying to form their own opinions of us. It is easier to just believe what they are told rather than having to spend time with us when they ‘have better things to do’
We fight every day just to get out of bed while they take the little things for granted. Most people think that because life is the way it is for them that it will always stay that way. They never think of what would happen if all the things they were used to suddenly weren’t around anymore. They are used to going places all the time, feeling healthy, being able to go on long road trips, go to the bars, have a ‘normal life’ Have a relationship. Not have to worry about each and every minute of every day and how it will affect you and your ability to do even the simple things that they do without even thinking of it as a challenge. For them, that is just the way it is for them. They never think life would be any different.
What would they do if one day they woke up and they were suddenly sick with a chronic illness and their whole lives were about to change forever? What would they think if one day they suddenly could no longer go places without planning for every minute of it. Of taking many medications. Of feeling exhausted 24/7. Of needing a wheelchair. Of needing support to walk up a flight of stairs. Of not being able to do even the simplest of things they used to do before they got sick?
They judge us each and every day. With their words. The looks. The whispers and the giggles as we struggle to walk upright or walk funny due to our pain. If they woke up one day and their whole life had changed, would they finally see that we are people too? We are not just The Disabled People.
We have feelings. We matter too. Just because we are different it should not make us ‘outcasts’ in the eyes of someone ‘normal’
We fight every single day just to get out of bed and put on a brave face. We do the best we can with what we have. There are people in my life that do not think of the hurtfulness of the words they use to describe me. I am not just the disabled girl they know. I am a person first. My illness is not who I am. It is a part of me, but it does not mean that I have to let it control me.
My name is Karley and I suffer from Chronic Illnesses. I am a person first and foremost. I am not the disabled girl. I have a name and I am more than my symptoms and illnesses. I refuse to let my illness control my life and how people see me. If they cannot see past the disabled parts of me, they have to right to be in my life anymore. I am a person. I have feelings. My illness is not who I am. I am stronger than my disabilities. I am doing the very best that I can with what I’ve got.
Instead of seeing me as disabled or having chronic illnesses that have no cure, try using my name instead. I am a human being. I have a name. or have you spent all of your time being so focused on the labels that surround me and my life that you don’t even know my name?