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'Big Brother' Viewers Are Shaming Contestant Raven Walton Over Gastroparesis

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Raven Walton, a 23-year-old dance teacher from Arkansas, has been open about having gastroparesis while she competes on the CBS reality show “Big Brother.” Now, some viewers are taking to the internet to express their doubts on the severity of her illness — something that may sound familiar to others with invisible illnesses.

Walton was diagnosed with gastroparesis when she was 16 and has spoken about the illness and the gastric neurostimulator she uses to treat her symptoms in pre-show interviews and on the show. But since the season began airing on June 28, some viewers (including viewers with gastroparesis themselves) have discussed their skepticism on Twitter, with many using the hashtag #RavenExposedParty. They say she’s exaggerating her illness to get attention and donations to her GoFundMe account, and some have questioned the information she’s given about her condition.

Viewers have also posted on Reddit questioning if she “has a degree of Munchausen’s syndrome” and suggesting she is “used to” having attention from her illness.

It is important to remember that unless you are Walton or her doctor, it is impossible to know the details of her medical history or the effect her chronic illness has on her life. Doubting or shaming people because of their health can prevent others from coming forward and getting the help they need. Trying to diagnose or delegitimize Walton only promotes the stigma those with chronic conditions face.

Walton is currently filming in the “Big Brother” house and can’t respond to any questions, but her mom, Stacy (who also has gastroparesis) has defended her. In a video posted earlier this month, Stacy said complications from severe gastroparesis can indeed be life-threatening and that Raven’s GoFundMe account was started by a fan and turned over to the Walton family.

“For the naysayers who want to rip us apart, I’ll pray for you. Because you don’t walk in my shoes and you don’t know our medical history and everything we’ve battled,” Stacy said. “But I’ll pray for you, because I do know this: in these days and times, people sure are brave behind a keyboard.”

Other viewers and people with gastroparesis have expressed their support for Walton on social media.

Originally published: July 21, 2017
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