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What You Won't Notice About My and My Son's Illnesses When We Walk Down the Street

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When me and my son walk down the street, what will you see?

A young mother with her toddler, both look well, healthy even.

It shows looks can be deceiving. It shows no one really truly knows what people have to have to cope with every day.

Being ill does not necessarily mean you look it. You may not look tired, you may have color to your skin, you may just look “normal.”

woman hugging toddler son who has head on her shoulder

Both myself and my son both battle unseen illnesses every day.

Elijah was diagnosed with Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) and a neonatal stroke at birth, he had a full TOF repair done via open heart surgery at six months old.

Although he was treated, he will live with this condition for the rest of his life. He looks like an energetic little toddler, running about and causing mischief, learning new words every day.

What people don’t see is the incision mark running down his chest and the chest drain stitches that have left their mark even now, 15 months post-surgery.

The panic that when he becomes ill that it may result in another hospital stay.

That his development has to be monitored so closely due to the bleed on his brain at birth. We need to check all milestones are met at the correct time.

Sometimes it is not just a case of giving him some Calpol to make him feel better, sometimes it is a case of getting him checked out, his oxygen sats measured and making sure his chest is clear, with a normal heart rate.

It just goes to show that little boy running around, with a slight sun tan to his arms and color to his cheeks? He has a congenital heart defect. Something unless you knew, you would never have even guessed.

When you look at me, what do you see? That I am mother to a toddler, trying to keep up with him and running after him as many parents of toddlers do.

What you don’t see is that for the last three days I have been too tired to leave the house.

That I have had to try and take naps throughout the day just to make it to mid-afternoon.

That I have lost weight without even trying, that now my skin has flared up into acne again.

I am losing hair, that I cannot keep awake past 10 p.m., and haven’t eaten a meal in days as I have had no appetite.

My hormones are all over the place, and I frequently have violent mood swings.

I remain in a constant emotional state.

That sometimes although I am so tired, I cannot sleep for days on end as my joints hurt and I am so cold.

The reason for this? I too have an illness you cannot see, one that effects so many aspects of my life, my daily day. I have a thyroid disease.

One that requires to me to take tablets every day for the rest of my life.

It can affect me physically, mentally and can affect my relationships with friends and family.

It can affect my chance to have another baby, and may have implications for me conceiving or on the baby’s health.

I have another hidden illness one up until only a few months ago I was shared to admit. To say out loud. I have post-traumatic stress disorder. I have a mental illness. One I battle with even now, over a whole year post-surgery.

However, you will not see this. You will just see a mom and a toddler walking down the road. Looking like any other mom and son.

But we are not.

These illnesses and conditions can be disguised, as we do not look “ill,” but they can make you depressed, they can affect the quality of your life. They require constant medication.

Sometimes it is hard to admit you’re ill when you do not look it. But you will most certainly feel it, whether you’re at home, at work or walking down the street with your son.

Originally published: July 7, 2016
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