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Teachers, Please Read This Before Passing Judgment on Students With Invisible Illness

To my instructors,

I know I’m restless. I know I may appear as if I’m not paying attention or that I’m not interested in what you have to say.

I promise you that I am interested.

I know that I come across as rude when I get up and leave, to “go to the toilet” or “take a phone call.” It isn’t intentional, and I don’t want to come across that way.

The thing is, I have joint hypermobility syndrome which means that, despite being just 19, I live a life of constant pain.

When I shift from sitting normally, to crossed legged, to having my knees to my chest, to having my feet on another chair, it’s not because I’m bored or because I’m not listening. I’m simply trying to find a way to sit that isn’t so painful that I can barely concentrate.

When I leave multiple times during a class, it’s not because I’m rude or don’t care about my education. It’s because my joints feel like they’ve turned to iron and the only way to relieve the pain is to move. I feel just as anxious, if not more, about the time I miss than any other person on my course.

My attendance may not be the best but some days I struggle ready for the day and out the door to university. Other days, I’m desperately trying to keep up with work. I can’t work like everyone else, typing or writing for too long leaves me with pain in my hands, my neck, and my back, sitting in the same position for too long has the same effect, and sometimes the pain in my hips is simply too much to sit up.

Sometimes I’m late because I’ve had to stop for a minute or else I’m afraid my ankles are going to give way, or because I was late leaving the house because I had to sit down between getting dressed because the pain in my shoulders was too much to finish pulling my jeans up, or because I was so exhausted when I woke up that I couldn’t keep my eyes open.

There are so many others like me who have a hidden disability. I know on the surface we may look unbothered or lazy but we are doing our best. Our bodies use more energy than everyone else simply to keep our joints in place so, on top of the pain, you can bet that we’re exhausted as well. I understand that it may be frustrating when we request to swap from a 9 a.m. or move the days of our classes but we’re just trying to make our education as accessible as we possibly can.

We may not behave exactly as you’d expect but we are not lazy or uninterested or unmotivated. We are trying. Please understand that.

Sincerely,

A student who’s doing their best

Getty image by wavebreakmedia