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How Developing a Chronic Illness Became My Superhero Origin Story

The chronically ill: We’re fighters. We’re tough. The amount of strength it takes to get through the day rivals any superhero. Yet, every superhero has their weaknesses. And each hero has an origin story. Just like Clark Kent, one day… I realized I was special.

I am Superman.

Very few understand me (and what I go through).

I know what it’s like to feel alien.


To put on my glasses, fix my hair and look normal – and for no one to know my secret.

My illness is invisible and it’s part of my origin story. Sometimes my senses are heightened (sensory overload). I’m chronically weak. I get easily fatigued. And sometimes, I have episodes of paralysis. It feels like kryptonite is draining the strength out of me. Glowing green and keeping me captive.

Just because I experience weakness does not make me weak. Real strength isn’t visible in times of health and abundance. Real strength is what it takes to push on through weakness and refuse to give in.

Sometimes I spend days at a time in bed. No, I’m not saving the whole world. But I’m saving my world. I’m resting for the next battle. And that’s enough. I’ve come to realize that. Because that is what it means to have true strength.

I’ve always loved superheroes. When I was a kid, I watched old Superman cartoons, Batman and even the old Aquaman cartoons. As I got older, the Marvel Universe films started coming out.

But there have been times when I’ve resented superheroes for their physical strength. (Even times when I’ve been jealous of regular humans.) But I’ve grown to realize that superheroes are created by their writers because people need hope. People admire superheroes because many of them, like Superman, embody strength and courage. They teach us to hold on to optimism, to fight like the whole world is on the line and to do it with a sense of purpose.

Every person who fights every day because of a chronic illness is extraordinary. We embody strength and hope even when we feel physically weak. Even when we are weary to our core, we are Superman.

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Thinkstock photo via Gal_Istvan.