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Would I Look Sick Then?

If you saw the anxious thoughts, the ones I’ve had constantly since I was 5, would I look sick then?

If you saw 6-year-old me brutally scratch her arms over having to speak to an adult I was unfamiliar / uncomfortable with, would I look sick then?

If you saw 8-year-old me pass out for the first time for no reason at all, would I look sick then?

If you saw the dizzy spells I’ve had since age 8, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I black out and faint, would I look sick then?

If you saw my pounding heart, would I look sick then?

If you saw me start hyperventilating, would I look sick then?

If you saw me having a panic attack, would I look sick then?

If you saw the brain fog clouding my thoughts and making it impossible to focus, would I look sick then?

If you saw the pressure in my skull from migraines, would I look sick then?

If you saw the agonizing muscle tension headaches I get on a daily basis, would I look sick then?

If you saw the light sensitivity I experience because of the migraines and muscle tension headaches, would I look sick then?

If you saw the self-harm scars I have from hurting myself for years, not always intentionally, would I look sick then?

If you saw the eating disorder I’ve struggled with since I was 11, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I fake a smile or a laugh, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I lie and say “I’m fine / just tired,” would I look sick then?

If you saw the flashbacks I see, would I look sick then?

If you saw the same hallucinations I saw as a child and teen, would I look sick then?

If you saw things the way I do when I disassociate or depersonalize, would I look sick then?

If you saw the passive suicidal thoughts I struggle with, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I’m nauseous, would I look sick then?

If you saw how many times I throw up per day / week, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I need to use the restroom, would I look sick then?

If you saw how many times I’ve had to lie on the floor because I’m simply too weak to sit, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I’m too dizzy to stand or walk, even with the help of a service dog and / or humans, often at the same time, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I pass out from bending over to pick up a dropped item, would I look sick then?

If you saw how many times I have fallen and hit my head due to dizziness / fainting, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I get bruised and injured due to those same falls, would I look sick then?

If you saw how even just turning my head to look at someone while sitting can trigger a dizzy spell and / or headache, would I look sick then?

If you saw how my fingers and toes ache and change colors from not getting the correct amount of blood flow, would I look sick then?

If you saw how the slightest temperature change, even for a moment, causes uncontrollable shaking, would I look sick then?

If you saw how my body overloads from the shaking when I get cold, would I look sick then?

If you saw how often I shake for no real reason, would I look sick then?

If you saw how much it hurts me to hear that I “don’t look sick,” would I look sick then?

If I wrote the word “sick” across my forehead, would I look sick then?

If I started using a wheelchair, would I look sick then?

What does sick even look like?

Sick doesn’t look any certain way. Sick means unhealthy, that doesn’t mean you can see it.

It doesn’t make me any less sick, simply because you can’t see it. I work hard to make sure I look nice or at least decent when I’m going somewhere and definitely when I’m going to post photos of myself.

No one, not even a sick and disabled person like myself wants to hear that we look sick or look bad. But by telling someone they “don’t look sick,” you invalidate their illness and / or disability.

I know that’s not true for everyone, but for me it makes me feel as though you don’t believe I am sick or disabled. It makes me feel as though you think I am lying and faking my illnesses. I don’t want to feel that way, and I’m sure no one has ever meant it that way.

However we need to stop and think about what we say to people and how it might make then feel. “You don’t look sick” “I’d never know you were sick unless …” “You look like you’re feeling better” “Glad to see you’re doing better” and other similar statements all have the potential to make a sick or disabled person feel invalidated.

Instead, try telling someone “you look nice today” “you look like you’re taking care of yourself” “you are strong for fighting your illness(es)” “you are strong/amazing/inspiring for not letting your illness/anything hold you back”. These will probably be much more well received and they don’t invalidate the struggle the person is going through.

While I can’t and won’t guarantee that everyone with an invisible illness or disability will agree with what I’ve said or the alternative compliments I suggested I can say that I will take them well and would much rather hear any one of those compliments rather than hearing that I don’t look sick, and look fine.