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Being Judged By Others Who Cannot 'See' My IBD

Many people nowadays see disability as being in a wheelchair, not having a limb or being deaf or blind. When people look at me they see a young, skinny girl who looks perfectly healthy apart from the pale complexion.

If you saw me at college you’d think I was having a normal day like any other teenager; however, I am far from your average teenager. I have an extreme illness from time to time which means I need to rush to the toilet to sometimes have diarrhea or squirm in pain while keeping a smile on my face. When people hear, smell or see me going into public toilets, they probably think I am hungover. I am not. It is a normal day for me and I am trying to forget people’s opinions as I slam the cubicle door behind me, getting my pants down just in time to relieve myself of the burning need to get rid of the toxic waste in my body. People forget that it’s just a toilet and that’s why they are there. You wouldn’t tell a child to stop (excuse the phrase) “having a poo” if they were desperate. People forget this is my body functioning in its own way in order to survive. The only difference is my day gets harder when I keep running to the toilet and people walk up to me and tell me to be ashamed of myself for using a toilet meant for people with disabilities. I am eligible for a disabled car parking space but without a doubt people would wonder why I would be allowed that.

Many people are so judgmental nowadays and I struggle to try to brush it off. Sometimes I get cramps when I get upset about what they could possibly be thinking when I leave the public cubicle. My overall appearance probably doesn’t help since I have ombre hair and wear a lot of make-up. People think it’s OK to stare me down as I walk out of the ladies’ room. I don’t enjoy attention, in case you haven’t guessed.

The only thing that keeps me going is knowing I am not alone, and I have learned recently that I am not. Mental health definitely becomes a challenge when you have a chronic illness like this. You struggle to cope so much that you hurt yourself by eating something you shouldn’t and so it leads to another day in pain because you wanted a little sweet taste of the past. I am still trying to find foods that will agree with my stomach so I can feel happy with myself for making it work rather than giving up and splurging on chocolate. The worst thing I can eat is chocolate and damn, I miss it.

One of the hardest parts of having a invisible illness is when people think they understand what you are going through. “You should try not to stay out of college because that isn’t good for finding jobs and things like that.” You think I don’t know that? I lost a job to this disease. I hate it when people think their opinion matters in the grand scheme of my life – my life is none of their business! Think twice before you speak about something you know nothing about.

The questions people should be asking nowadays are things like, “Do you feel well enough to leave the house with a friend or family member?” Most of the time the answer is yes, but some days I lie on the couch and run to the toilet constantly. One thing I never get tired of is food and the constant need to consume. I feel better when I can motivate myself to walk to Morrison’s because they have the toilet signs that say, “Not every disability is visible.” Then I can go buy food to take back home and stop at a local cafĂ© to calm myself down and pick my energy back up for the short walk home.

Having this illness is frustrating as someone who used to be into athletics and staying well. I have always loved sports and I wish people could see that people are the way they are, but that doesn’t mean they were always the same person they are now. Why do people have to make up a story in their head and confront a stranger with their opinion on what they think is happening? It upsets me that people don’t think about what a person might be going through. I’m an approachable person who will happily show you my IBD card and my radar key. Don’t judge me – underneath the face of a young woman is someone who is sick but also a fighter.

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Thinkstock photo via SIphotography.