when i was going to school, i had a friend share with me that she had lupus — after i told her i’d been out of school the entire past year because of a chronic illness. another friend, who i’d been reasonably close to (and crushed on) during middle school, told me she had rheumatoid arthritis only years later, and only shared this after i talked about my own experiences with chronic illness. i’ve had multiple friends bring up their experiences with depression only after talking about trauma/my experiences with PTSD. a friend of a friend told me about her blood disorder that had kept her out of school in the past after i explained that i had dropped out of school because of my illnesses.
these chronic illnesses have been labeled ‘invisible illnesses’ for a reason. they’re not just invisible because we don’t fit some person’s definition of ‘looking sick.’ they’re invisible because we’ve learned there’s stigma around sharing them, or we’ve shared our experiences and gotten so many insensitive replies and complete lack of understanding from those around us that we’ve given up on trying to explain. it’s invisible illness awareness week right now, and for good reason — illnesses that are a daily part of our lives shouldn’t be something we feel the need to keep secret in order to protect ourselves and save ourselves the energy drain and frustration of trying to explain, over and over. spread awareness, educate yourself, remember that chronic illnesses and those of us who have them are everywhere, and we’re a part of your lives, too.