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Dear Porsha Williams, Thank You for Sharing About Your Illness on TV

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I am not the biggest fan of your show, and quite frankly, Sunday night was the first time I’ve ever seen the “Real House Wives of Atlanta.” However, I would really like to say “thank you.”

I’m going to be frank with you, every ounce of my #BlackGirlMagic was shinning when you stood up for yourself and your illness. As as young black women with a chronic illness no one can see, it’s nice to see someone who looks like myself navigate similar challenges. After being diagnosed, my glow up period was quick and I eventually appeared to not have lost any of my slayage, so my girls had trouble believing I could possibly be actually sick.

I know I’m nobody to you personally, but as someone fervently advocating for the visibility of chronic illness, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I hope you remain an advocate for yourself and the rest of us with chronic illness. I wish I could give you the biggest and warmest hug!

Girl, I was so offended watching last night’s show, I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to jump into the television. Honestly, it’s hard explaining it to anyone, but especially anyone in the black community. I hate to say it, but in my experience, it’s true. I think the lack of education around not so popular illnesses is a community epidemic in general, but especially as women of color.

I pray for your sake that they apologize to you (and everyone else) for their immature and ignorant behavior. Now, I’m not sure if any of these women are aware, but currently in America millions of Americans are fighting for healthcare because they have a chronic illness like right now. Lady Gaga just aired a Netflix documentary about living with fibromyalgia, an invisible illness. Whether by default or intention, by mocking your illness, questioning its existence, and bullying you because of it, they are setting a poor example for the millions of fans who watch your show.

I hope you know that their not knowing is not an excuse for their behavior, and I’m sorry you had to endure that. They are not only spreading hate to you, but to each and every member of the invisible disability community with their jokes. So not cool. For the record, feel free to tell them some of us actually have diseases that make our legs tremor and shake fervently when they are “down too long,” and no, it’s not because I spent a lot of time on my back like Kandi and her assistant suggested about you.

Had I heard of vasovagal syncope? Nope. Have I heard of every chronic illness there is in the world? Nope. What doctor has? I don’t even know you and I Googled it. It’s so frustrating that it’s that simple for people to at least attempt to understand you. But they don’t, just like Shamea did not. But don’t give up hope!

I’ve lost some of my closest friends after I could not sustain the way we originally interacted after my diagnosis. Similar to the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” women’s reactions, they thought my illness was a convenient excuse to decline plans or request accommodations. Not all of my friends were like that though, as my best friends eventually got it. So don’t give up just yet. If the friendship is of any value to you, try again, but this time try using something like the battery analogy from “The Unchargeables.” I’ve found it really helps people better visualize the concept of chronic illness as a whole.

This may sound lame, but I hope there is some comfort in knowing many of us have experienced the “just get your shit together” sentiment. That attitude fuels myself and many others to fight daily for chronic illness visibility. By you standing up to the bullying and degradation of your invisible illness, you are too! If you don’t know, in the chronic illness community we pride ourselves on sticking together and supporting one another through learning about our illnesses and how to live well with them. Though the other housewives doesn’t understand, we do. I do.

Thank you. I can’t explain how it feels to see someone who looks like me, explain the experience. When we try to educate and advocate for ourselves like you tried to do, often times our loved ones do not understand experiences they cannot imagine for themselves. But there are times, like in your case, that you offer them the literature to educate themselves about your condition and how it affects you…and they simply refuse to read it.

Living with an illness no one can see and experiencing changes to your body that cannot be felt by others is hard to explain to anyone, let alone on national television – especially to a group of women blinded by their prejudices of you and their discriminating ignorance of invisible illnesses.

I felt your frustration and embarrassment as you so gracefully attempted to educate your girls. But my #BlackGirlMagic was shinning bright yet again. While I am so sorry they did not take the time to read about your illness, I did. After a few minutes on Google I quickly understood why you could not make the 17 hour plus flight from Atlanta to Kenya in economy accommodations.

Though you may not experience the financial hardship of chronic illness like I do, being able to afford accommodations for every instance in which your illness needs is something I relate very well too. But it’s more than financial, it’s the added stress and strain on your body you don’t really want to pay for.

I empathize with the humiliation of having to defend your illness and its affects on your everyday life. I cried for you, but I also cheered ferociously for you! Good for you for deciding to protect your energy and guard your peace. Sometimes it is best to step away to give yourself and loved ones time to accept the changes illnesses like vasovasal syncope can have on our lives.

Please don’t be discouraged. I too know the betrayal you must feel, the hurt, and even the confusion. There are millions of us out here who understand your struggles and the journey of living with a chronic illness. Don’t stop trying to be a “new vegan” or a pillar of positivity. Do you girl and at the end of the day, no matter what, remember you don’t owe an explanation about your illness or the things you do to maintain your health.

No matter the extent of you limitations, the degree your illness affects your life, or how sick you do or don’t feel, is no ones business but yours. If you decide to share that with anyone and they choose to not believe you or accept that reality, it is their problem – not yours.

All that to say, thank you for your vulnerability in sharing the challenge in trying to explain chronic illness to our friends and family.

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Photo courtesy of Porsha William’s Facebook page.

Originally published: November 17, 2017
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