Three things that are said frequently to me when I tell someone that I suffer from an Autoimmune condition are “Really? you don’t look sick though” , “You are still sooooo young” and “Oh but….you look so NORMAL”. Sometimes I also get thrown a look of disbelieve like I have just told them a great lie which may also happen to be a secret joke that I might laugh about later.
Firstly, I don’t go around telling random people that I have an autoimmune condition and secondly, I have to explain why I can’t eat this or that food which is what happens at social settings and generally where these conversations tend to transpire. Some foods increase inflammation in my body and cause a flare up of my Autoimmune condition, thus I stay away from them. Gluten and Dairy are two foods that I don’t eat.
I am happy to say that I am still able to walk even when I am not well and I tend to make an effort to comb my hair, wear some eyeliner, lipgloss and dress in decent clothes when I leave the house. Making the effort to look good makes me feel good and a half decent human being on my bad days – so I don’t apologise for it.
Just because I look good on the outside, does not take away the fact that I sometimes have excruciating joint pains, brain fog, extreme exhaustion & fatigue. I just don’t need to let my illness define the person I am. There is no reason why I need to look like a zombie on the move when I am out and about and scare the general population and besides life is too short to wear ugly clothes.
There were times in the past that I have gone out to run urgent errands even while having crippling pain perhaps not as fast as I would normally walk since every single step that I took hurt deep in my joints and my muscles felt like a cage wrapped around my body but yes, even then I probably still won’t look sick. Other times I might be talking to someone and somehow manage to forget their name, yup HELLOOOO brain fog! Once again I may look a little stupid but not sick.
The autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis which I suffer from is a chronic illness and it is invisible. I am not looking for a pity party here. I would rather people look at me and see the joy of life in me rather than the pain I am in on a bad day. Although, there definitely needs to be an awareness about the definition of what an illness is.
Not everyone in this world who is sick or has an illness is bedridden, crippled or looks like a Zombie on the move looking for some fresh brain kill (that is what Zombies eat…right??). There are many of us who are chronically ill with illnesses which are invisible and not all disabilities are visible either.
Examples of Invisible illnesses
- Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Multiple sclerosis
- Depression, Anxiety, Mental illness
- Digestive disorders e.g. Ulcerative Colitis, IBS, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease
- Heart disease
- Lyme Disease
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Even though I am in a better place now than when I was first diagnosed, as a chronic illness sufferer, I will have my bad days every now and then when my Autoimmune condition flares up. When it does get bad, I always take it easy, I have learned the hard way these last few years to listen to my body and not push myself beyond what my body is capable of and it is OK to say” I am not a Superwoman and I can’t do everything in one day, I might need a few days to get some things done and that is fine”.
These two years after completely overhauling the way I eat, I have more good days than bad days which I am extremely thankful for. Food can be a wonderful medicine that heals or a slow leeching poison in my experience. The food that we choose to eat and the way we live our life is what makes up for the failings in our genetics.
We do what works best for us to heal- be it with food, medicine or a combination of both. There is no right or wrong. The main goal of people suffering from chronic illness is to be able to have a healthy and functional life with less pain and symptoms. Each of us do the best that we can with what options we have got available to us.
Medicine helps in times of crisis but it is my believe that the long term solution is often in the food we put in our body, plus it does not come with any side effects. Food does not CURE Autoimmune illness neither does medication, there is no magic switch to turn off autoimmunity once it has been turned on by the various factors that causes it to manifest. Once we stop the medication or stop eating the kind of food that brought the illness into remission, flare ups always occur.
Eating clean and making food my medicine has worked to a great extent for me and I am grateful for that. Food is only part of the puzzle and there many aspects to managing autoimmune illness holistically. I have written about how I manage my autoimmune illness here.
I am far from perfect. I do fall off the wagon with my food choices especially when I am traveling or on holidays. Clean eating is not always that easily accessible outside of home. When that happens I know I have to suffer the consequence, I accept it in the knowledge that I will recover as I start my clean eating again.
Everyday regardless be it a good day or a bad day I live it with positivity and to the best of my ability. Chronic illness has not stopped me from being present in my life or living it to the fullest.
To all those who suffer from an invisible illness, I hear you and I feel you. You are amazingly strong and you rock!
To the rest, you know now what not to say the next time you have someone (who looks good on the outside) tell you that they are suffering from a chronic illness which may not be visible to your eyes – we don’t need pity, disbelieve or hear ridiculous comments about how we don’t look sick enough but instead some kind words will do just fine.