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The Photo Series That Made My Invisible Illnesses Visible

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Editor’s note: This article includes a photo that shows nudity.

I have struggled with my multiple sclerosis (MS) since I was diagnosed several years ago. It is one of many chronic illnesses that is invisible. Unless you are the person with the diagnosis, or one of the few who have the pleasure of being trusted enough to see inside the actuality of what those living with any invisible illness go through, you wouldn’t know it was there.

My favorite line has always been, “But you don’t look sick,” like after I attempted to explain my limitations to former coworkers on an as needed basis. Yes, I do understand that that is very true. I look fine. Even today I have a roommate who often asks why I look so sad when I am just having a bad pain day, and he is well-aware of my illness and what it causes. It can be frustrating, to say the least.

Circumstances like this gave me the motivation to undergo a project with my lifelong friend Mick, of McKenna Jane Photography, because she has seen my journey. She also struggles with an invisible, chronic illness and understood exactly what I wanted to show through these photos. While my experience does not speak for everyone, I hope it will give the world some insight as to what you see and show what someone with an invisible illness may actually feel.

The writer sitting in a tire shop.

I have only been awake for two hours and I needed to get new tires on my car. To get to this point, my body is already starting to wear down. From this photo, that just looks like a girl sitting in a tire shop, you can see everything… My face shows my struggle with chronic fatigue, my posture reflects the chronic pain I feel as I curl my body inward. My hands are kept in a position that lessens the nerve pain I have from extensive damage caused during my last MS flare.

I often stand or walk with my arms wrapped around myself. People always ask if I’m cold, which can be part of if, but mostly I’m creating a shield around myself and hiding scars the world can’t see but have become such a major part of my life.


The writer writing, "MS" in the sand at the beach.

The more prominent my struggle with MS becomes, the more I feel like the outside world fades away.

The writer walking down the beach.

I spend a lot of time reflecting on life. I wonder if I should have made it through the emergency surgery that saved my life two years ago, or if I am a burden to those around me. I often get lost observing others around me like I am on the outside looking in. I want to participate as much as I want to be alone. Do I engage? Do I withdraw? I feel lost every single day.

Part of this journey has been learning to accept my scars. This is not always easy and I continue to try my best to hide them. Thankfully, most are covered by clothing, but not everything can be.

Looking “normal” while you are not able to completely function as a healthy individual can be extremely difficult. I know I am not alone in my journey – that I have people who support me and there are others going through similar journeys, but that does not make it any easier. There is no clear path to how you should live your life, whether you happen to be sick or if you are healthy, but I implore everyone to live their best life and be cognizant of journeys that others may be going through.

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All photos used with permission from McKenna Jane Photography.


Originally published: September 14, 2017
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