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To My Loved Ones When I ‘Fake It’ Through My Chronic Illness

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My loved ones, there is no way to put into words how much I truly appreciate you. All the things you do for me, no matter how big or small, I can promise you they don’t go unnoticed. I can count on you for a shoulder to cry on or a laugh when I’m at a low point. You watch me suffer day-to-day. Through my struggles with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), depression, anxiety and so much more, you have watched my world turn upside-down. You see me at my worst and you think you see me at my best. Although, on those days that you watch me smile, laugh and seem fine, the truth is that smile is painted on my face, and that laugh is fake. In fact, that laugh is taking every last bit of energy out of my body. I can’t remember the last time I felt 100 percent. I’m not saying everything I do is fake and I never am truly happy, I’m just not as good as I may seem.

It is my reality, and it is something I am used to. I don’t want pity, nor am I after sympathy. Coping with chronic illnesses, I’ve learned that sometimes it is easier to make my life more difficult than make others upset. I’m sure that’s hard to wrap your head around. Why would you put yourself through more hell than you have already been through? Rewind to the first sentence when I said I truly appreciate you. That is exactly why.

I appreciate you more than you can imagine. When I see you are upset from my condition, it backfires and makes me upset and frustrated. It makes wish I could pull out a cape, suddenly have superpowers and make it all go away. Sometimes it’s easier to keep how I am truly feeling to myself. It is uncomfortable to communicate to you that I am not as good as I may seem. Then when I see the heartbreak in your eyes and that helpless “I wish I could help you look,” I feel as if I have just shared with you what I feel day-to-day. I wouldn’t wish anyone to feel what I feel every day. Whether it be physical or mental pain, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Your support and wanting to know exactly what I’m going through is nonetheless comforting, although I hate the days you watch my smiles fade to frowns and my eyes have little rain showers. I hate that you know I’m suffering.

back view of two women with arms around each other
Anna and a friend

If I give you that glimpse of my life that leaves you in a dark place, I feel as if I failed. It is my mission and my focus to be stronger than chronic illnesses. Although there is no superpower cape I can put on and make everything go away, I feel as if I have developed my own human superpowers after suffering for so long — superpowers that give me the ability and strength to fight, and to not let my illnesses define me.

What can those loved ones I appreciate so very much take away from this? It is no harm to me to know you are thinking of me, support me and are there to cheer me up when I need it. But sometimes I need you to look no deeper than the surface. When I have a smile on my face, whether it is painted on or not, this is my way of showing that right now I can handle what is going on in my life on my own. It is my way of protecting you. Don’t get me wrong — there will be those days when I need that shoulder to cry on and those open ears to vent to. Just please know how to read me. If you feel as if I’m not “letting you in” on an emotional level, it is simply my way of saying I got this, I can do this, and thank you.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: February 1, 2016
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