Doing my hair, putting on makeup, wearing clothes that aren’t pajamas... is part of putting on my armour. It’s part of how I build myself up to feign normalcy and participate in the world for periods of time. As I make myself appear more normal, I psych myself up like an athlete does before a competition. I detach from my body. It’s like I can’t even feel it. I find energy, but it’s almost frantic, anxious, slightly uncontrolled. There’s an element of fear. I don’t know how long I can keep this up. Will the facade come crashing down in an embarrassing display? And how badly will I pay for it later? But to everyone else it seems perky, positive and upbeat. It’s true that I am authentically excited to be out. To be normal for a little while. It’s a novelty. A treat. When you see me out and can’t help but think, “but she doesn’t look sick” know that I am choosing between two versions of me to show you. I can be anxiously energized, with my armour in place... or I could let down my guard, reconnect with my body, feel the shooting and burning pain, the spasms, the nausea, the bone aching fatigue and sink to the ground at that very spot in a puddle of tears. For me, it’s one or the other. I can find a middle ground in my home where nothing has to be done. I can fall apart at any moment and my people and I have created a safety net where that’s ok. The stakes are very very low. When I’m out, the stakes feel very, very high.
So if I see you in the store, at the school or as a patient in your clinic, I want you to know that this facade isn’t me faking it, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not sick either. Its how I cope. It’s how I am able to still experience the world outside the isolation and loneliness of my sick person safety net. I know there are other people like me. So I hope this helps you understand that we know we don’t look sick. We are. But we are happy to be out and don’t want to fall apart and show you. Please allow us the dignity of wearing our armour.
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Submitted by: Alina Cathcart
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