More than just a job: a Queen’s Don discovers a community for those with invisible illness

By Anonymous, Queen’s InvisAbilities member

I am a Don at Queen’s and I love my job. Actually to be honest, it doesn’t even feel like a job, as it is so much fun and has become embedded into my everyday life. I started off the year going through a ten-day intensive Don training program. During this time, I was balancing a series of doctor’s appointments, as they tried to determine an illness that had crept up over the course of the summer. Finally I was tentatively diagnosed just as school started. The whole situation was rather coincidental, as we had just gone through various workshops regarding mental illness, first aid, Queen’s services, etc. However, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to face.

During my first Don meeting we were informed that if we had any medical conditions, they should be disclosed to the administration of the Don program. At the end of the meeting, I mentioned my situation. Interestingly, although I did not reveal my illness to the students on my floor, over the course of the next few days I had many students come to my door and open up to me about various conditions.

Being in a similar position, I was all the more compassionate and empathetic hearing my students’ stories. I even felt comfortable disclosing my own illness to some of the residents, allowing us to relate to each other and not feel as though we were alone in our struggle.

Upon joining Queen’s InvisAbilities, I realized this sentiment was shared on a large-scale among those living with invisible illness. I met a whole group of people who all looked perfectly healthy, but who were also battling illness. They share the same dilemma I do: attempting to maintain relationships with friends, family, and boyfriends/girlfriends; becoming involved in extracurriculars; attaining adequate grades; scheduling in doctors’ appointments and work… And on top of all that – learning how to handle their illness – which seems to present a different challenge on a daily basis. Leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle is difficult, and I’m glad to know that there are other students that I can identify with.