Why It’s Frustrating To Be Told, ‘You Don’t Look Sick!’ When You Have An Invisible Illness

Invisible Illness

By Jo Moss in The Mighty.

 

When you live with an invisible chronic illness there’s a phrase you hear a lot: “You don’t look sick!” It’s so common that many of us don’t even bat an eyelid when these words are uttered. But whether it’s from a well-meaning friend, a doctor or a complete stranger, it’s often hard not to question these four simple words. Are they questioning the validity of my illness? Are they challenging me to prove how ill I am? Are they accusing me of faking it? Or are they just simply making an honest observation?

On top of this, we also have to contend with complete strangers judging us on our outward appearance and our need to use mobility aids or services designed to assist disabled living, when we don’t “look” disabled. These confrontations can sometimes be aggressive and intimidating.

But the truth is, the symptoms of the majority of chronic illnesses do not present themselves physically. My pain is not etched in ink on my skin. My exhaustion doesn’t cause a physical difference. And I don’t turn bright green when I’m so dizzy I feel like I’m going to pass out.

These types of comments and judgemental behaviors have happened to me more times than I care to remember, but they still shock me sometimes and I never really know how to respond. Most of the time I brush them off and it doesn’t bother me, but there are times when I get angry and frustrated. But how should I respond?

 

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