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Just Because I'm Wearing a Cute Outfit Doesn't Mean I Feel Better

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This question used to be so easy to answer. I rarely hesitated to give an honest answer unless it was something personal and I didn’t want to share. Now that I’m living with a chronic, invisible illness makes it hard to answer and I feel like I’m lying or having to explain myself to appease others doubts.

If you look good on the outside than you must be feeling good on the inside. That’s the mentality of our society and guilty as charged, it was mine too – before I got sick. I know we all have our stories, history, baggage, etc., but I never thought about invisible illness. When I used think of illness, I thought of visible symptoms and physical changes. Even the flu has visible symptoms: cough, sneezing, runny nose and when we hear and see it, it’s believable. What we don’t see are the body aches and pains that accompany the flu. A person might start off saying they feel bad, but we don’t immediately believe them till it’s proven with a cough or runny nose. As long as we see it, it’s real.

I work full-time and have to dress up. I used to love shopping for clothes and enjoyed ironing. I wanted to look good because I felt good. I’d have lazy days when I didn’t care so I’d pin my hair up and wear whatever. On these lazy days, people never thought I could be sick. After all, I showed no signs.

Now that I’m on the invisible illness roller coaster, I get to experience the frustration first hand. The frustration of what others think when they see I try to keep up with my appearance, even though I’m supposed to be sick with pain. I still like to dress up, fix my hair and wear cute shoes – even though they sometimes hurt me all over.

Keeping up with my appearance not only makes me feel good but it gives me strength to get out of bed to wear that cute outfit, keeps me fighting against my body, it gives me an energy boost when I feel my worst. I still talk about trying to work out and many other things I used to enjoy. It helps me to focus on the positive and not just the constant pain.

When people see me and ask, “How I’m doing?” or, “Look at you, all dressed up. You must be feeling better.” They expect me to say, “Yes, I’m great all better now!” Being all dressed up, smiling, trying super hard to be positive, they assume I’m magically better. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Just because you see someone have their act together on the outside doesn’t mean it’s the same on the inside. The mornings I wake up in pain and have to drag myself to work are the days I look like death. On those days, people know I’m suffering because it’s flashing all over my body and I distance myself doing what I can to make it through the eight hour day. And it never fails to hear, “But you looked so good yesterday.” Or, “What happened? I thought you were feeling better.” No, you assume a dress and a smile meant feeling better. It’s pointless and exhausting trying to explain over and over that in an instant you can go from good to bad and there’s no telling how bad it will be or how long the bad will last.

I’ve wasted lots of energy caring what people think, whether they believe I’m sick or not. I’ve reached a point where I don’t care and I’m done feeling guilty. I choose to focus my energy on myself. It’s hard enough to put on a brave face, get out of bed, pray for a good day with my body and be thankful at night that I survived another day. Why waste my precious energy things that don’t matter?

A lesson to myself and you, don’t judge or assume anything about someone’s health. We don’t know their story and just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For one day, it could be you walking in those invisible, painful shoes.

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Thinkstock Image By: Beo88

Originally published: June 30, 2017
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