This blog post is very important for me to share with all of you, simply because it needs to be talked about, and it is also very close to my heart.
I will preface the main section of this post by explaining my platform for Miss Teenage Saskatoon and Miss Teenage Canada. I chose to raise awareness for invisible illnesses, both mental and physical. I knew the moment that I was accepted into the pageant that this would be my platform, simply because I have dealt with it personally for years, and I know several others do as well.
Now you may be asking, what are considered invisible illnesses? The answer is simply any form of illness or disability that you cannot see just by sight. There are several types of invisible illnesses, but to keep it short, I will separate these types into simply:
1: Mental and 2: Physical
Most mental illnesses are already invisible, and sometimes people almost expect to not be able to tell if someone is mentally ill. While it may seem like a good thing, since the person with the mental illness will not have to deal with the stigma of looking different from everyone else, it can turn out to be deadly; when a mentally ill person is invisibly ill, no one may think to check up on them and help them turn to professionals that can help them, which could possibly lead to the mentally ill person committing suicide.
Invisible physical illnesses, however, are much more difficult. Most people expect to see someone who has a physical illness and be able to tell right away that they are indeed sick. Media and society has told us that someone is only physically ill if it is glaringly obvious. That couldn’t be more wrong. However, those expectations of what sick people look like are still ingrained, believe it or not, even some doctors believe the stereotypes! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by doctors that I can’t possibly be as sick as I claim I am because I’m able to smile.
People with invisible illnesses (or Spoonies*) are so incredibly strong. We are able to go through extreme amounts of pain and still carry on with our lives! We have wicked high pain tolerances, which confuses doctors quite a bit. If any of us go into the ER, they don’t understand how someone can be in such severe pain and still be able to smile, talk, and walk. The Spoonie pain scale is generally much different than the pain scale healthy people live by.
If it is hard for a doctor to tell if someone is sick, imagine what the people around you are able to see. 9 times out of 10, no one can tell if I am sick, simply because I am used to hiding my pain/sickness. When you have an invisible chronic illness, you learn to adapt to the pain/sickness because you can’t afford to stay in bed for the rest of your life. You learn ways to move around, you learn ways to do your daily activities, you learn how to hide your pain because you can’t go around doubled over all of the time. It’s not easy learning how to hide it, and it is exhausting, but you learn how to adapt since you have no other option. When you are able to tell that someone you know with an invisible physical illness isn’t feeling well, chances are that the pain/sickness is so severe that they are too physically exhausted to keep hiding how they really feel.
*To read more about my personal story of invisible illnesses, see blog post titled “Invisible Illnesses Part 2”. Be sure to check out my blog post “Spoonies – What Are They?” as well!