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Yes, I'm 'Faking It,' but Not in the Way You Think

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As someone who has been living with multiple invisible chronic illnesses and pain for many years, I know how we are constantly scrutinized and evaluated — both out loud and silently — for our medical issues that may not be visible to the naked eye.

This judgment relates to how we look, the way we act, activities in which we partake, how we sound and the list goes on. It happens primarily when we are in social settings or around others who are “healthy” and have no understanding or awareness of invisible chronic illnesses and pain. And when is a more prevalent time this occurs? None other than the holiday season of course!

What I have to tell you may surprise you — most invisible chronic illness and pain patients do fake part of our illnesses. How, you ask?

No, we do not fake being sick.

Quite the opposite actually.

We actually fake being well. 

We fake it to make it. We fake being “healthy” enough to go out to lunch or dinner with friends for an hour or two. We put on our social masks and fake smiles through our struggling to make others feel more comfortable with our existence. We fake being OK when around others and try not to discuss our medical issues so people don’t give us that “poor thing” look or pity us. We hide our modalities and accommodations when out (and in pictures) so our illnesses are not “visible.” When you ask us how we are feeling, we give you the typical answers you want to hear, such as, “I’m fine” or “I’m good” or quickly change the subject. 

So why do we go through all of this hassle of faking it? Well it’s simple — we want to fit in! We want to be invited to go places, to have friends and we want our families to love us. We are desperate to be a part of the world and feel some semblance of normalcy, if even for a brief respite. We want to distract ourselves from the constant misery of sickness and isolation we live in 24/7, as it is good for our psyches. We want to laugh so we don’t cry. And frankly, for those of us with invisible illnesses, it’s just easier to fake being well than trying to educate people who will never understand. Please know we are still us even though we are living with invisible illnesses. We don’t want our medical issues to define us and would love it if people accepted us knowing the reality of our lives, and we didn’t have to fake being OK just to fit in.

Want to know a secret about this holiday season? Many of us with chronic illnesses and pain aren’t too sad about COVID ruining our plans. While we do enjoy “faking” it sometimes, it does get exhausting. And the holiday season is particularly stressful and taxing for us with even more social events, parties and dinners to try and attend. So having an excuse to stay home during all the hustle and bustle (which is where we have to be most of the time anyways), isn’t such a bad holiday plan after all.

Have a wonderful holiday season, my fellow chronic illness and pain warriors and caregivers.

Photo by Grant Ritchie on Unsplash

Originally published: December 16, 2020
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