You would think that after being ill for more than a decade with a mostly invisible illness that I would have developed a thicker skin. But no, I do still get easily upset by other people’s ignorance and I do still feel that I have to justify how ill I really am.
Do you also have this problem? I’ll bet that you at least used to.
Really though why do we need to justify ourselves? We know how ill we are by how we feel, and our family see how life is now and how much time we spend in hospitals. Not to mention that it’s none of anyone else’s business unless we want it to be.
Yet the feeling is still there for me. In a society where the sick and disabled are constantly punished by the media, the Government and by doctors in many cases, is it any wonder that I and others feel this way? In the back of our minds we wonder if we are sick enough. How ridiculous is that!
“Are we sick enough to stop working?”
“Are we sick enough to apply for benefits?”
“Are we sick enough to use our blue badges?”
“Are we sick enough to be seen with a mobility aid?”
I’m sure you can add many more doubts that cross our minds on a daily basis.
So how do I shake off this feeling?
Ignore the looks out in public.
Not so easy, I know, but we need to learn to tell ourselves that we don’t owe anyone an explanation. It is private to us and if anyone asks us why we are doing something they don’t automatically have a right to our most personal details. They don’t!
Stop following all the scare stories on social media.
I fell into this trap a few years ago and just had to read all the stories. I even left many forums as it was all doom and gloom and full of people who (understandably) wanted to complain. The problem was that many of these forums didn’t have a lighter side. So they had to go.
This goes for the news as well. Oh, and those God awful scroungers programs on the telly. Don’t watch them! If fewer people watched them then they wouldn’t get any air time.
I haven’t had any really awful experiences like we see in the media and I have some great doctors so I now choose to base my feelings on my own experience and not that of others (too much, as there is a time and place).
You are not a scrounger
You are entitled to apply for help from a system that you have paid into. Let that sink in.
They will go through your claim and judge you very, very thoroughly before helping you. If you have passed their tests then believe me when I say that you have already justified yourself and you don’t need to keep doing it. They don’t give out help like sweeties!
Your self-worth is still intact
You might feel pretty worthless at times but that’s when you really need to change your perception of your worth.
Self-worth has little to do with financial income. My worth is also as a mother and wife. I support my husband and daughter in ways that have nothing to do with money. I love them and support them emotionally. I’m raising a strong and independent daughter who will contribute to society in the future. I’m supporting my husband through difficult times as well as sharing the good times. I am part of what makes them who they are.
Now extend the thought to your extended family and your friends. What do they gain from knowing you? If you don’t know, ask some of them. I’ll bet you’ll be amazed by the replies.
I can even go as far as to say that I’m an animal lover. I’ve rescued 3 cats, so far, and I feed the wildlife in the winter months to help them along. I also make a difference to their lives.
You can take this as far as you need to, at least until you realise your self-worth hasn’t changed. You were and are always worth while.
You don’t need to defend yourself to raise awareness
Let me first say that self-defence and raising awareness are NOT the same thing. As soon as you get defensive you have lost the ability to raise awareness.
By all means, talk to people if they are genuinely interested and if you don’t mind sharing. BUT… you don’t have to share at all.
You can advocate for a charity or for someone you care about. You can even offer to give a short talk at a school about invisible illness if speaking is your thing. Or maybe you blog about it.
My daughter has learned about invisible illness from living with me and she has become my advocate. She teaches her friends and explains why some things are different in our house. In turn, they learn to be less judgmental too. And so the cycle goes.
Don’t forget though that you don’t need to raise awareness at all. It is YOUR choice and your right to choose either way.
So join me and pledge that we are no longer going to feel the need to justify our illness to others. That’s it, hand on heart and pledge with me. We’ll feel so much better for it too.
Things I am grateful for today
- I feel worthwhile just as I am.
- I’m surrounded by mostly positive people.
- I can be here to help my daughter grow and learn, and to become a compassionate young woman.