The Mighty Logo

If You're Struggling to Admit You Have a Chronic Disease

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

When I was first diagnosed with a chronic illness, I made this assumption that chronically ill people have support systems. I thought chronically ill people have others to contact when the night swallows their hope for the next day. I thought chronically ill people attend support groups to help lessen the shock, unfamiliarity, and unfairness of their diagnosis. I thought chronically ill people had an extensive list of supporters to root for them, to guide them, and to simply be there.

I am not saying this isn’t true for some, but it most definitely is not true for someone who doesn’t want others to know what the diagnosis is. This isn’t true for someone who feels like the diagnosis has defined their being, their personality and their character. This isn’t true for someone who keeps all troubles and woes to themselves. The truth was that I was all of these attributes in one.

I didn’t want to tell my family, my friends, my co-workers, and my teachers about my illness. I didn’t want to be that girl who couldn’t be counted on because of an illness. I didn’t want to swallow my pride and admit I had something that was foreign not only to me, but to my doctors and medical journals as well. I didn’t want to explain an illness that previous people I told dismissed because it is uncommon and rare. Also, it didn’t help that I was perfectionist either. I would tell myself to keep it together because there are other people who have a more crippling and debilitating diseases and conditions than I do. I was concerned about my physical appearance towards others because I feared if I wore sweatpants to class for a week then I would be considered sloppy, lazy, not put together, and not having high self-esteem and self-worth. I compartmentalized my opinions of my diagnosis and buried them beneath my feet, but I forget to change the window on my eyes when people began to ask what was wrong.

Then I knew things had to change.

First, for myself and all others who are struggling to admit you have a chronic disease, when you cut the noose around your tongue that keeps your disease tame and under wraps, it is one of the most frightening and distancing moments. Your teeth are set on edge just thinking of how to approach the topic, but your heart desires the listening person to understand it, to understand your emotions with the utmost empathy, and to understand that you are not alone in the disease.

Second, if you do have a perfectionist personality and are a people-pleaser for the sake of not wanting to damper the sunshine-filled spirits of others, get over it. The more you keep lying to yourself, the more damage you do to yourself. The more you say it doesn’t bug you not to tell someone how you feel about the whole enchilada of the diagnosis, treatment, or lack of cure, the bug of denial becomes bigger. And the more you let pride cloud your peripheral vision, the chances of noticing people who genuinely care for you becomes a shadow.

Lastly, don’t give two cents about how you look, how you sound when you finally open up about your health, or how you think you’ll only reap the results of the uncharted. Your opinion of yourself is the only one that should be taken into consideration. You think you’ve mastered the art of hiding things that are too big to handle, but you aren’t the author of a “Where’s Waldo?” book. Your emotions are just as transparent on the iris of your eyes as they are in your nonverbal language. You are human. You are worthy of comfort, understanding, and hope. You are worth having others be concerned about your health, and you are definitely worth allowing yourself to share your medical journey with others.

So go ahead, treat yourself to the lasting effects of a genuine and interested friend, family member, coach, or teacher who wants to support you by their sheer will, and not because they’re playing the pity card against you.

Originally published: September 19, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home