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When People Make Assumptions About My Health Based on My Physical Appearance

What you see from the outside when you don’t know my story: a girl who looks frail, weak, pale, sickly, exhausted and much younger than she actually is.


What you don’t see from the outside: I am not choosing to avoid food. I am someone who has been fighting with doctor after doctor for four years seeking treatment for an undiagnosed condition. I am living in chronic pain. I have done everything in my power to help my body heal. I tried every diet known to man, eliminated every category of food that could be causing the problem, seen over a dozen doctors, rested to let my body heal, and tried countless medications that were unsuccessful. I want to find answers, treatment, and re-gain my health more than anything.

When someone who doesn’t know me and doesn’t know my story sees me at the grocery store, or in public, their initial reaction is usually, “Oh my gosh, she looks so sick.” Those words are usually said silently to themselves. There is often no long drawn-out thought before they open their mouth and speak. The first words out of their mouth may be, “You are so thin,” “Don’t you ever eat?” “You need to go eat a hamburger,” but what they don’t realize is how much these words hurt. Do you think I can’t see how thin I am? I do everything I can to put as much food in my body as I possibly can and I pray that my body accepts the food without making the pain so intense I am not able to move, stand up or sleep. Do you know what I would give to be able to eat a hamburger? I would give anything to get my body to digest solid food again.

Others, who don’t say anything after their initial thought, usually just stare. Perhaps they are are afraid to ask why I look like I do. It’s not an easy question to ask, but I know what you’re thinking. But what you don’t know is that I am choosing to eat. I want my body to be able to do the work of digesting food more than anything.

For others who just make assumptions of their own, that hurts, too. From seeing only my physical appearance they may think it’s depression, an eating disorder, psychological or a terminal illness, but none of those are the reason I look the way I do. What they don’t know is that for four years I have had chronic pain with an undiagnosed condition that no one has offered me treatment for. I have made every effort and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars seeking care and treatment and gotten nowhere.

Living with a chronic illness is a daily battle of unknowns. I often feel like I am fighting for my life.  Most days when I wake up I don’t know how I will make it through the day. I don’t know if it will be a bad day where the pain is extreme or if it will be a good day and I will be able to function a little more. One thing I can tell you for sure is hearing others speak the first thing that comes to mind when they see only my physical appearance, or simply make assumptions of their own, does not make me feel better in any way.

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