Misconceptions of invisible illness…

There are a myriad of misconceptions that surround hidden, chronic illness. They are typically amplified when the individual is young and chronically ill. Below are just a few examples of invisible illness misconceptions.

“She’s rude. She never wants to hang out with us.” Chronic Fatigue Syndrome often leads to the assumption that the individual is standoffish, or reclusive when they don’t fully participate in social events. On the flip side, those who live with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are impacted by the physical and mental exertion of everyday activities, and oftentimes do not have the energy to engage in additional social events.

“There’s no way she’s that sick, she’s always so happy.” This is a popular misconception associated with invisible illness. Many people forget that a person living with hidden, chronic illness is oftentimes being pain managed, which may provide enough relief to function in a sociable manner. Additionally, some individuals come to normalize the pain associated with their illness, as it has become a part of their everyday life. Ultimately, just because someone is always smiling doesn’t mean things are always 100% in their favour.

“You can’t have arthritis, that’s an old person’s disease.” This is a common phrase that young people living with arthritis hear time and time again. The societal expectation is that youth and illness aren’t synonymous. It’s based on the idea that when you’re young, health problems are typically short-lived and easily curable. This isn’t the case for many young people who oftentimes have been dealing with illness from a young age.

“What a slacker. He clearly doesn’t care about his future. He’s never in class.” Chronic migraines are extremely debilitating; however, it’s not only the severe symptoms of the migraine itself, but also its after effects. Migraines can leave an individual feeling drained days later. Having a migraine several times a week can wreak havoc on someone’s personal, academic and professional life.

“I know something’s up, but he’ll never tell me the full story.” Stigma can be cruel. Many people who live with a hidden, chronic illness such as Crohn’s disease, Colitis, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome are embarrassed by the “taboo” symptoms associated with their illnesses. Inevitably, stigmatization leads to lack of support for individuals living with “un-sexy” illnesses.

“What’s up with her? She never wants to eat with us.” Food is a large part of the social experience. Birthday cakes, barbecues, brunches with friends. Food brings people together. This is a challenge for individuals who live with invisible illnesses such as Diabetes or Celiac disease. Without explanation, their eating habits may appear quite unusual to an unaware outsider. However, diabetics and those with Celiac disease must remain diligent with their diet in order to manage symptoms.