Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Mark Twain
Sometimes I want to slap a sticky note on my forehead that says, “I am sick. No, I don’t look sick at this moment. But I am not faking having a disease just because I’m not in a wheelchair, and I am not a freak.”
Now, I am aware walking around with a note like that on my head would actually put me in the freak category. Not to mention all those words would only fit on a Post-It note if I wrote it very, very small, and then people would have to get really close to me to read it, and that might just put me over the edge. I’m really into my personal space.
The thing is, I don’t like talking about having chronic health problems that interfere with my life. I don’t like the way people look down, over, and around me when they realize I have a chronic illness. Or worse yet, the suspicious way their eyes narrow when they decide it’s all in my head, or I’m a hypochondriac.
Why does it bother me to tell people I have health problems? Doesn’t everybody at some point? I suppose that’s the crux right there. For most people, the difference is in the “some point” part.
They have a problem. They go to the doctor. Doctor fixes it. Life moves on. It was a small, annoying inconvenience.
For me, and likely for you since you’re reading this, your problem is not so temporary. You’ve got it for life, or until science finds a cure, which for some diseases is as likely as winning the lottery when you haven’t even bought a ticket. So we make people nervous.
Instead, Americans spend billions trying to avoid anything that even smells like sickness. Our country has enough pills, vitamins, and herbal remedies to make you sick even if you started out healthy, or at least to make your urine turn neon yellow—which is an interesting phenomenon—though likely not worth all the money it took to make it happen.
I would like to trade in my health problems and be well again. I sometimes think that would be getting my life back. But the truth is, this is my life, and as I have come to (almost) accept that fact and make the best of it, I think there’s hope for me.
Maybe not to cease being a freak to some, but to cease seeing myself as a victim, as a traumatic case, or even as a lesser being because of my illness. That being the goal, maybe I’ll remove the hypothetical Post-It note from my forehead and put it in my back pocket, to be removed periodically and waved in people’s faces only when I’m having a tough day. It’s a start anyway.