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To the 'Real Housewife' of Beverly Hills Who Questioned Another's Illness

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Dear Taylor Armstrong, 

I just had a chance to sit down catch up on the latest episode of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” and I have to say, I was not only hurt and offended for Yolanda by your comments and questioning of her illness — but for myself and all other chronically ill patients out there. In your blog you defended your comments, saying you were just asking how she was doing. But your comment about her Instagram account and how there are “happy selfies and then sick selfies” says otherwise. As someone who has a chronic and invisible illness, I wanted to reach out to you myself and tell you just how hurtful your comments are to those of us suffering from an illness. 

When you’re chronically ill, how you feel changes day by day, minute by minute and hour by hour. You can wake up feeling good (by your standards) and by lunch time feel like you’ve been hit by a truck. It changes constantly. So yes, one minute we will have a photo of us feeling well and then later that day a photo of us curled up in bed exhausted. 

My friends have come to expect and accept the fact that when I’m invited to an event, I cannot RSVP as “Going.” It’s always “Maybe” because I honestly have no idea how I will feel when the event happens. I hope I can go, but it doesn’t mean I can. Our illnesses have a mind of their own. We cannot control when we will feel sick and for how long. If I do go to a party, it can take me up to a week to recover afterwards. 

Your other comment that Yolanda’s photos of her treatment are “a little much” also did not sit well with me. She’s documenting her journey in hopes of raising awareness for not just a cure but to combat ignorance like you displayed in this episode. It’s not an exaggeration on her part. It’s not for show or for entertainment. This is her life, and instead of hiding it or trying to sweep it under the rug, she’s dealing with this publicly to help inspire those of us who are going through similar battles. 

“People get antibiotics and move on.” There’s no cure for a chronic illness. Simple antibiotics will not fix it. There’s no “moving on.” It’s a lifelong battle. I’m 23 years old, I’ve been dealing with illness since the day I was born. I’ve had four open heart surgeries, take 45 pills a day, have a pacemaker/defibrillator, sleep with oxygen at night, take inhalers as well as SVN treatments, follow a low salt and no caffeine diet. All of this is done so I can stay alive and have a day or two out of the week where yes, I will appear to be healthy and have an opportunity to take a “happy selfie” when I finally feel as normal as I ever will. 

As for why the ladies were not talking about her illness or answering your questions, it’s because it was not coming from a place of concern. You came off as suspicious of Yolanda and as if you were questioning the legitimacy of her illness. You put everyone at that party in an uncomfortable and awkward situation. They want to defend their friend and her battle but are not sure how to tell you to back off. On top of that, they’re not the experts on her illness. Friends and families often do not want to answer questions about their loved one’s illness in fear of giving false information that will further the ignorance and suspicion of the patient. 

I’d like to share with you 6 Common Misconceptions About The Chronically Ill from an article I found on Psychology Today.

I encourage you, Ms. Armstrong, to ask questions with compassion instead of disbelief and suspicion. It’s one thing to be confused and want to learn more. It’s another to question whether or not a person is truly ill or at least what you perceive sick to be. 

And to Yolanda, 

I want to thank you for sharing such a personal battle with the world to learn from and sadly, at times judge. There’s little to no proper representation in the mainstream media of chronically ill people, and by you being so open about your illness you’re not only inspiring us to keep going, but you’re helping combat ignorance. On behalf of chronically ill people, thank you. 

Follow this journey on Life as a Chronically Ill Young Adult.

Originally published: December 21, 2015
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