Friday, 9 November 2012

Invisible Illness Vs Visible Illness

Today I'm using one of the "extra" National Health Blog Post Month Prompts, mostly because I used today's yesterday, and my brain fog's so bad I can't work out how I managed to get two ninths of November.

So there's this wonderful prompt in the "extras" section: Invisible Illness Vs Visible Illness, Pros and Cons.

Let me say straight up - I hate having my invisible illness - but I would also hate to have a visible illness. Any "pros and cons" are very, very relative.  

So let's see what my list looks like - I'd love the alternative perspective from someone who has a "visible illness" to compare it to.

Invisible Illness - Pros

  • You can get away with appearing "normal" for brief periods of time, and "blend in" with the crowd.
  • You don't have to explain yourself to casual acquaintances (unless you're having a flare and can't do something a normal person could.)

Invisible Illness - Cons

  • It's an illness. You're sick, you feel bad, you have to take medication, things can get worse.
  • When public transport's crowded, no-one will offer you a seat.
  • People think it's all in your mind (they can't see it, it mustn't be real.) 
  • If you don't need an appliance to help you walk, you don't get a disabled parking permit, even if walking from the carpark is exhausting and painful.
  • Because you look healthy, people think you can do all the usual things healthy people can do.
  • Even friends forget you need the lift instead of the stairs. (If there's a line up for the lift - eg at the theatre - someone will tell you that the lifts needed for people in wheelchairs and you should take the stairs.)
  • There are all sorts of myths about autoimmune diseases, a common one being that we caused it ourselves. (No-one tells someone with breast cancer or leukaemia that they caused it themselves.)
  • People get impatient if you walk slowly, take time to make decisions, drop things, etc.
  • Having a health issue that impacts on work, when you look like someone who ought to be doing a regular job.
  • The number of places that have poor disability access.
  • I gained my disability pension fairly easily, but I know of a number of people who are very, very sick, who have not been able to convince Centrelink (or the equivalent in their country) that they are unable to do normal work because of their condition.

Visible Illness - Pros

  • You have no trouble getting the "priority seating" on public transport.
  • People generally understand you really are sick.
  • Disabled parking permits if you actually use an appliance to help you walk.
  • People understand if you move slowly, take time about decisions, even are slightly clumsy.
  • It seems (and that's my perception, so I could be wrong) to be easier to get a disability pension if the people doing the assessment can actually see what's wrong with you.

Visible Illness - Cons

  • It's an illness. You're sick, you feel bad, you have to take medication, things can get worse.
  • You always look different, so you can never have a time where you just "blend in". 
  • Having a health issue that impacts on work.
  • The number of places that have poor disability access.

So looking at my list, would I rather have a visible illness than the invisible one I have? I can honestly say "no". I do very much value those brief times when I can fake it and look like just a normal person.

But if I had an option to have no illness, I'd take that in a moment! If I could go back to playing sport, working full time, and not being afraid that my brain fog has made me do something really dangerous (I left the stove on for about four hours on Wednesday), that would be my dream.

This post was written as part of Wego Health's National Health Blog Post Month.


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