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7 Ways I React When Someone Tells Me I 'Don't Look Sick' – in GIFs


Having a chronic illness can be really hard. However, navigating life with an illness can become even more complicated when that illness is invisible.

When you have an invisible illness, people can’t necessarily see all the symptoms you are experiencing – it’s not like you broke your arm and are wearing a visible cast. This can make it hard for others to truly see, and understand, what you are going through. So while I may look “good” on the outside, I am still sick and struggling with symptoms on the inside.

A lot of times people with invisible illnesses are hit with the ever-so-dreaded line: “but you don’t look sick…” People probably say this with the best intentions in mind, but as someone living with a chronic illness, to hear that can be extremely upsetting.

I can recall being told I “don’t look sick” on numerous occasions, and each time it hurt. I could be having the worst brain fog or pain day ever and people would still say, “but you don’t look sick.” Being told this not only makes me feel invalidated, but it belittles the seriousness that is my chronic illness.  

Instead of letting these encounters get to me, I find that one of the best ways to cope is with humor. So I compiled a list of the various reactions I have (either on the inside or the outside!) as a person with an invisible illness when someone says, “but you don’t look sick…”

Hopefully this post will help to take some of the pain out of hearing “but you don’t look sick,” while also educating others on why this phrase is so upsetting to those who live with chronic, invisible illnesses.

How do you react when someone tells you that you “don’t look sick”? Let me know in the comments below!

1. The Eye Roll

tony stark rolling his eyes
via Giphy
meryl streep rolling her eyes
via Giphy

Sometimes I can’t help but think “here we go again…” and let the eyes roll.

2. The ‘I’m Stunned’ Look

Man stunned
via Giphy
Millie Bobby Brown stunned
via Giphy

Sometimes I’m just so shocked that someone would really say those words to me.

3. The Sigh

Ariel sighing
via Giphy
DJ tanner sighing
via Giphy

Sometimes I can’t help but sigh it out at hearing this belittling phrase yet again.

4. The ‘Just Think Happy Thoughts’ Mood

Simpson character thinking happy thoughts
via Giphy
Spongebob saying Happy thoughts
via Giphy

Sometimes I just have to push myself to “think happy thoughts” in order to make it through this awful encounter.

5. The ‘Do I Have Time to Explain Invisible Illness to Them?’ Question

Will Smith quizzical
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Nick Jonas quizzical
via Giphy

Sometimes I just contemplate whether I have the time to explain what having an “invisible” illness means.

6. The Fake Laugh

Jason Bateman fake laughing
via Giphy
woman fake lauging
via Giphy

Sometimes I have to fake laugh the comment away because I just can’t go through this again.

7. And Finally, the ‘Rage of a Thousand Suns’ Feeling

Anger from Inside out getting mad
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Darla from Little Rascals crushing a can
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Sometimes I just have to let the fury free because people still don’t understand how upsetting it is to hear that I “don’t look sick.”

If you struggle with a range of emotions when people say, “but you don’t look sick,” know you are not alone in feeling this way. Your illness is real and your symptoms are valid, visible or invisible.

Screenshot via Giphy