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An 'Invisible' Illness Does Not Equate to an 'Imaginary' Illness

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I don’t look sick because I spent three hours showering and painstakingly applying my makeup and fixing my hair. I probably had to lie down every 10 minutes because some days standing or sitting up hurts too much. Even if it’s just to go to dinner with my parents, I try to put on my war paint, a brave face, so that I can take on the world.

You see, the bags under my eyes were never “designer,” as people who have never experienced real sleep loss will joke. If I had to make a comparison, these bags would be trash bags left on the curb in a bad part of town. They’re from weeks, no, months of not sleeping through the night. But you wouldn’t know because I’ve concealed them away from the world. At midnight, the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin and my momentary fairytale will fade away.

I don’t look sick because in public I “fake it until I make it.” I don’t want to be anyone’s charity case. The girl who has big dreams but often can’t will herself to leave her bed. I plan my entire day around any chance I get to leave the house and have a taste of normalcy, whatever that is. I muster up all the courage I have to walk out the door and take on the world even though my insides feel like they’re on fire. But since I don’t look like it on the outside that must mean it’s not true.

The problem with invisible illnesses is, you guessed it, they are I-N-V-I-S-I-B-L-E. Invisible does not mean imaginary. Invisible is not an excuse for being lazy. Invisible is not a cry for attention. My condition, and the condition of others, whether it is a physical or mental illness, is very, very real. So don’t mistake my being dressed up and put-together as a sign that I’m suddenly “all better” or that I was “never that sick in the first place.” It doesn’t work like that.

Being made-up is a matter of personal pride and self-confidence. I feel a little stronger and a little more like myself when I put effort into my appearance. If my outsides don’t match my insides I feel a little less like a pariah and a little more like a human being. I don’t do it for you, I don’t do it to hide, I do it for me.

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Thinkstock photo via Vstock LLC.

Originally published: May 5, 2017
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