I got to thinking about raising awareness about invisible illnesses and the dichotomy or contrast that exists for someone blogging anonymously. On some level, I feel as if I should be willing to be truly open and sharing my story as myself clearly identified. Would that potentially better help me to raise awareness and understanding of the invisible illnesses in my life? Why am I choosing to write this anonymously? Is it better to post my name and picture? Am I somehow promoting an idea that these illnesses should stay invisible? Am I somehow finding their invisibility convenient?
The answer reveals a lot about my experience and fears around my invisible illnesses. For me, it took all the desperation and bravery I have to start this blog. I was so scared to start processing all of these thoughts and feelings and, even more so, to do it in a public forum. I realized that I almost had no choice, I had to process my pain and had to reach out to find support. I decided to blog anonymously because I was (and still am) too afraid to share all of these struggles in a way that any acquaintances, colleagues, or future employers might find.
I’m afraid of being judged for my health conditions. I have fibromyalgia, endometriosis, infertility, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and migraines as my #invisiblefights. I’m afraid of not being believed or taken seriously. I’m afraid of people telling me it’s somehow my fault or that, if I just tried [insert recommendation here], I would be better. The worst is people who suggest that I would be healthy if I could just have a positive enough attitude. Really… I’m afraid of making people uncomfortable. I’m afraid of my words being used against me somehow. I’m afraid friends would be scared off. I’m afraid coworkers would see me as weak, supervisors might be reluctant to promote me, or future employers might not hire me if they knew.
These fears and accompanying silence are important aspects of invisible illnesses too. Part of the invisibility is physical; no one can see them. Part of the invisibility is cultural; no one understands what to make of them. Part of the invisibility may also be personal; we are afraid of sharing our conditions for fear of judgement and consequences.
In some ways there’s an advantage to invisible illnesses there, from my perspective today. Most of the time, I can choose whether to reveal my health conditions to others. I have almost always hidden my struggles from most of the people around me. I’ve been successful at that until recently when it’s been much more difficult to hide.
Slowly but surely we are developing understanding among ourselves and society. Someday I hope to not have to feel so afraid of the stigmas and misunderstanding. Eventually more of us will be comfortable bringing these issues into the open. I’m so thankful for this platform to connect with people, support each other, and learn from each other. I’m so thankful for advocacy like Invisible Illnesses Awareness Week to help drag these illnesses into the light.
Image: Red anemone
Text Copyright Snowdroplets 2015