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To the Person Who Judges Me for the Medications I Take

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To the person who judges me for the medication I take,

I see you. I see you looking at me, watching and judging me for digging to the bottom of my bag and pulling out a bright orange bottle with a white cap on it. “But he doesn’t look sick,” you think to yourself. The only type of people who carry pills around are those who are either really sick, or they’re “using.” You know what I mean. You thought it too. “Maybe he’s just a pill popping junkie. I bet those are not even his.”

Well, I’m here to tell you that yes, they are mine, and believe it or not, I really am sick. “How can that be?” you might ask. It’s because “sick” doesn’t look like what you may think. I have an invisible illness. Someone with a disability doesn’t always use a wheelchair, a cane, or crutches. Sometimes it’s tubes, backpacks and pill bottles. We (the chronically ill) hide it very well. We tuck the tubes under our shirts, carry pumps in cute backpacks and even tuck pills in mint containers.

We don’t do this for us, we do it for you and the world we live in.

Otherwise, you might ask insensitive questions or worse, stare at us the way you have been.

What you don’t realize, what you’re not accounting for, is how this makes us all feel. Have you ever considered the challenges of being chronically ill? Well let me tell you what it’s like, at least for me. I’m able bodied. All my limbs are intact; I can stand and walk on my own volition. So, how am I disabled? Well, while all my limbs may be accounted for, they don’t like to stay in place. I snap, crackle and pop, even to the point of dislocating my limbs from doing something simple, like raising my hand. I also take a handful of pills several times a day. This medication’s intention is to pull away metals from my body at a cellular level. Medication can only do so much, so while it is taking out the harmful metal in my body, it is also taking away the metals that are not, leaving me in chronic pain.

Let’s talk about that for a minute. Do you know what helps me feel better, that helps me live my life as “normal” as possible? Pain medication. Opioid, narcotic-based medication. Please note how I said “better” not “good.” You might be thinking, “Oh, here it comes, he’s going to say  ‘I’m not an addict.’” And you’re right, I’m not an addict. The medication I take is habit-forming and puts me at risk for addiction, just as drinking alcohol puts one at risk for alcoholism. The difference is, alcohol isn’t intended to sustain quality of life. Pain medication for many chronically ill patients, does help to sustain quality of life. Never have I taken my prescribed pain medication other than as intended. The reason being, my body already feels like a chemical dump site. Between the iron chelation medication, pain medicine and organ failure, I often feel like Chernobyl internally.

So now you how do you feel? I hope you realize making assumptions about others isn’t helpful. Only education will help others understand. So next time someone shuffles around their bag looking for a pill bottle, refrain from jumping to conclusions. More often than not, they are just trying to function just like you, and deserve the same equal treatment and consideration as anyone else. Oddly enough, invisible illness is a lot like hope — you can’t see it, but it’s there. You just have to believe it.

Follow this journey on Team Iron Man

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to anyone you wish had a better understanding of your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Originally published: June 17, 2016
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