I have multiple chronic illnesses, and technically they’re all “invisible” chronic illnesses, but to me they always feel visible.
Ok, I admit that a stranger might not notice anything at first glance, but someone who knows me well should see the signs. I feel like they’re incredibly obvious. I don’t use a cane or a wheelchair or any other aide, but the signs still scream out. Sometimes it’s a tiny limp, or a grimace when something hurts. My face could be flushed or pale. It could be the way I lay my hands in my lap, palm up with the fingers curled, in a very unnatural way, but the only way that won’t cause excruciating pain. There’s the way I might be sitting in a chair, and when I cross my legs I have to use my hands to pick up one leg and move it over the other. How could people miss these signs?
And then, when all else fails, there’s always my eyes. I admit, some days are worse than others. Some days my eyes might not betray anything, or maybe there will only be a hint. But then there are the other days….
Yesterday was exhausting. It was stressful and happy, fun and tiring. By the end, though, I was fatigued and every muscle hurt – I’d overdone it. If I had thought about it, I would have expected to look bad, but why would I think about it? It never crossed my mind until I was getting ready for bed. I went into the bathroom, stood in front of the sink to brush my teeth, and did a double-take when I looked in the mirror. I looked that bad. My skin was burned and dry, my shoulders were hunched and sagging at the same time somehow, my hair was sticking out in all directions. But my eyes. My eyes showed it all.
My eyes were sad. They were a bit puffy and swollen, so they weren’t open all the way. One was less open than the other, which doesn’t happen unless I feel this bad. The lids were extra wrinkled. They were glassy. They were just wrong.
Logically I understand how these “little” things can be overlooked by someone who is not watching for them. I get that. And at the same time, I feel like my body is shouting out the signs: LOOK HERE! SHE’S REALLY SICK! IT’S NOT INVISIBLE AT ALL! But then, it’s never truly invisible to someone who’s really looking, is it?