What This Picture Cannot Tell You About My Struggles With Illness


Over and over again, as I look at myself, I rarely see my limp, my back pain or the anguish I face daily. It’s just like getting all dressed up then parking in a handicapped spot, and being looked at as though you’re going to be bombarded with rocks. In this picture no one can see the daily sobs and utilization of lots of tissues because of my rheumatoid arthritis pain.

woman posing in front of a large framed painting over a fireplace

I can put on my Sunday best and put a bandaid on my forehead and people still won’t see my throbbing spine. You can’t look at this picture and see that it’s a challenge just to get out of bed and have a fresh cup of coffee. You can’t see the isolation that comes with my illness. You really can’t see that what used to be so simple is very difficult for me now. Yes, even combing my hair. I can’t do it. I normally get it done by a hair salon.

You can’t see in this pic that I have taken my last pill which allows me to function halfway decently, or how I feel when I must wait until medication becomes available. You think you’re looking at a pretty normal lady. Oh no, you can’t see when an eight-hour day literally feels like a week.

We grew up hearing the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” over and over again. Yet it always amazes me that we are in a world that looks at things with 20/20 vision. If it appears to look like a duck, then it must be one. Well, what happens when the duck doesn’t quack?

In other words, you can’t see in this picture that my ability to eat a lot of foods I love has been taken away. I can’t digest meat such as hot dogs, hamburgers or pork chops, but you could never look at this picture and see that. You can’t look at this picture and see that I have to self-catheter myself at home to be able to use the bathroom due to bladder disease. You would not be able to see I had a stroke, or that I struggle with type 2 diabetes. No, you would never be able to look and see the emotional trauma I’ve had to endure.

The picture may appear as if everything is glorious, but you can’t see my reality in this picture. You can’t see the rejection I’ve had to endure over the years. You can’t see the loneliness I must face on a regular basis. I was once approached by a young lady and I’ll never forget it. Her exact words were, “Honey, you look like a million bucks.” I said thank you. What was so profound was that the day she approached me I had just gotten out of the hospital and was feeling weak. This is just another example of how pictures don’t always tell the full story. They show just a part then allow your mind to imagine whatever it chooses.

As a matter of fact, you can’t even see in this picture that I am imagining I am in Paris or London. You can’t see that I’m a proud mother and grandmother. I am. My face speaks of many things, but you can’t know only by looking at this picture. It only shows what’s obvious – I’m a woman.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Rheumatoid Arthritis

woman typing on her computer outside

When a Facebook Memory Reminded Me of My Life Before Illness

A few days ago a picture from Facebook popped up to remind me where and what I was doing two years ago. It was a picture of my husband and me at the first round of the NCAA basketball playoffs. We had been looking forward to this event for months even though those same few [...]

Going Through a 'Break-Up' Every Time New Medication Doesn't Work

Tonight I lie in bed feeling betrayed for the fourth time in the past two years. I am not necessarily great at relationships, but I am even worse at break-ups. Yet here I am again…lying awake in bed, replaying our whole relationship in my mind. What happened? Things were going so well. Was it me? [...]
silhouette of woman and man sitting on a bench in front of the ocean watching the sunset

5 Things My Loved Ones Should Know About Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are so many things I do not know how to express or explain to the people who love me. The next five bullet points are some of the most important to me. 1. I never wanted to become sick. I pray every day that God will see fit to heal me. At this point in [...]
boots on sand overlooking ocean

You Don't Have to Be 'Old' to Have Arthritis

Let’s get straight to the nitty gritty here. I’m not old. Well my kids would say I am, but contextually I’m not. I’m pushing 40, but was diagnosed with a rare type of rheumatoid arthritis at 14 years old. I’ve spent a lifetime on and off crutches, in and out of wheelchairs and hospitals. I’ve [...]