I Have An Invisible Illness

I Have An Invisible Illness

But it does not define me.
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John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

Being a teenager with an invisible illness is tough. I look perfectly fine on the outside. No one has any idea that I am sick unless I tell them, but I'm far from fine on the inside.

Having an invisible illness can be great when you go about life not looking like a typical sick person and no one knows the truth about your weak and damaged body. It's when people learn about your illness that it gets worse. Trust me, I get it, it's a hard concept to understand that someone who looks fine isn't actually fine; but just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not there. Just because you can't see my illness, doesn't mean it isn't real and doesn't impact my daily life.

What you see on the outside is a beauty queen, a college student, a Tex-Mex fanatic, a proud and loving sister, daughter, girlfriend, and friend. What you don't see are the medications I take in the morning so I can function half as well as the typical girl my age, the specific workout plan I have to follow to try to train my heart to work properly, the hours I have to lay in bed or sit on the floor in the bathroom fighting my debilitating nausea or the multiple doctors appointments I have scheduled every week.

And that's okay because I don't want you to see all of that. I want you to think I'm alright and strong, a fighter; but when you find out the truth, I want you to be my friend. I want you to be okay with not understanding how I may feel okay after eating a meal one day, but feel sick after a meal the next, or that I can't always go out for social events because my body is too physically exhausted from trying to function. I'm not asking you to get it, I'm just asking you to accept it.

Last year, one of the people I considered my very best friend, didn't accept the fact that she didn't understand my invisible illness. Instead, she sent me the most hurtful and distressing text message I have ever received. It had many mean things written in it, but the most hurtful thing it read was, "Your illness is bullshit." Those words have affected me every day since I got that message because it was the first time in my life someone hadn't tried to understand.

I know that people don't understand my invisible illness because I try my hardest to prevent it from affecting my life. And I will never expect someone to understand. I know that I do my best to maintain a "normal" life and strive to be recognized for my accomplishments outside of my illness. But that isn't a reason to assume my illness isn't real.

If you know that I am sick, please just acknowledge it and accept it. Be ok with the fact that I may look healthy on the outside, but my body is fighting to stay alive on the inside. Please know that I do my best to participate in as many regular activities as I can because I want to be a part of your life too. Just please don't think my illness isn't real, please don't think I make it up for attention. Because if you lived a day in my life, you would know just how much I pray and wish I lived a regular life, like you.

I'm proud of my illness and I will never hide that it is a part of my life. I will continue to prove that my normal is just as good as your normal. I could never imagine a life without my illness because, without it, I wouldn't be who I am today.

It may be invisible, but it is real. I may look fine, but I am not. My illness is a part of me, but it does not define me. I am so much more than my illness.

All I ask is that you accept me for who I am and how God made me. I'm not asking you to understand why He made me this way...because I don't either.

Cover Image Credit: Alex Wilkins

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Bailey Posted A Racist Tweet, But That Does NOT Mean She Deserves To Be Fat Shamed

As a certified racist, does she deserve to be fat shamed?
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This morning, I was scrolling though my phone, rotating between Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Snapchat again, ignoring everyone's snaps but going through all the Snapchat subscription stories before stumbling on a Daily Mail article that piqued my interest. The article was one about a teen, Bailey, who was bullied for her figure, as seen on the snap below and the text exchange between Bailey and her mother, in which she begged for a change of clothes because people were making fun of her and taking pictures.

Like all viral things, quickly after her text pictures and harassing snaps surfaced, people internet stalked her social media. But, after some digging, it was found that Bailey had tweeted some racist remark.

Now, some are saying that because Bailey was clearly racist, she is undeserving of empathy and deserves to be fat-shamed. But does she? All humans, no matter how we try, are prejudiced in one way or another. If you can honestly tell me that you treat everyone with an equal amount of respect after a brief first impression, regardless of the state of their physical hygiene or the words that come out of their mouth, either you're a liar, or you're actually God. Yes, she tweeted some racist stuff. But does that mean that all hate she receives in all aspects of her life are justified?

On the other hand, Bailey was racist. And what comes around goes around. There was one user on Twitter who pointed out that as a racist, Bailey was a bully herself. And, quite honestly, everyone loves the downfall of the bully. The moment the bullies' victims stop cowering from fear and discover that they, too, have claws is the moment when the onlookers turn the tables and start jeering the bully instead. This is the moment the bully completely and utterly breaks, feeling the pain of their victims for the first time, and for the victims, the bully's demise is satisfying to watch.

While we'd all like to believe that the ideal is somewhere in between, in a happy medium where her racism is penalized but she also gets sympathy for being fat shamed, the reality is that the ideal is to be entirely empathetic. Help her through her tough time, with no backlash.

Bullies bully to dominate and to feel powerful. If we tell her that she's undeserving of any good in life because she tweeted some racist stuff, she will feel stifled and insignificant and awful. Maybe she'll also want to make someone else to feel as awful as she did for some random physical characteristic she has. Maybe, we might dehumanize her to the point where we feel that she's undeserving of anything, and she might forget the preciousness of life. Either one of the outcomes is unpleasant and disturbing and will not promote healthy tendencies within a person.

Instead, we should make her feel supported. We all have bad traits about ourselves, but they shouldn't define us. Maybe, through this experience, she'll realize how it feels to be prejudiced against based off physical characteristics. After all, it is our lowest points, our most desperate points in life, that provide us with another perspective to use while evaluating the world and everyone in it.

Cover Image Credit: Twitter / Bailey

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I'm Afraid of Taking Medication Even Though I Shouldn't Be

There's nothing wrong with a little Advil.

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Throughout my childhood, my parents ingrained in me that taking medication was not only unnecessary but actually poisonous. We never had anything like Tylenol at home, and common cabinet inhabitants such as Mucinex and Tums were strangers to our walls.

Instead, they believed in healing the body through chakras and edible plants. If I ever had a stomachache, my father would break out his healing crystals and lay them on the flat of my back, chanting some song with made-up lyrics as my mother prepared essential oils for me to sniff before bed.

As a kid, I never really got sick, but my four-day vomit fest when I was six years old was only treated with spoonfuls of water, and the rash that broke out on my neck in elementary school was wrapped in a blanket of cabbage (yes, my mother truly believed cabbage could cure my hives). Since I was never really exposed to medication, I thought this was normal for most of my life. Once I got older, I noticed children popping Advil as if it was candy in middle school, and my friends were shocked that I had never even heard of it.

When I broke my wrist in the eighth grade, the nurse asked me if I wanted a prescription for any pain-relievers, and I adamantly refused. Not only was my father in the room (who also would not have approved of me receiving medication), but I believed that there was no benefit to it. My body would heal on its own, it did not need any assistance from outside chemicals.

After about a week, the pain became so intense that I no longer could sleep comfortably at night. This to be expected for anyone who breaks a bone, but every physical movement was virtually unbearable. My mother knew that I was desperate, so she purchased a small bottle and gave me a single pill.

Even though I felt almost instantaneous relief (as someone who never had medication, I knew that a little bit would go a long way), I was riddled with guilt. I thought I was weak for requiring medication to help me feel better. It wasn't that I believed people who took pills were inferior, but I was convinced that my body was strong enough to self-soothe.

Later into high school, I watched students around me ingest anxiety medication and anti-depressants, whether it was for legitimate diagnoses or during a party. I still didn't understand how or why they worked. How could a little pill somehow relieve the burden of a mental illness? How could an orange bottle be the solution?

I did not shame these people for using medication because I could see all of the benefits, but I was simply uneducated. I decided to do a little discovering and began to understand the (basic) science behind the process. Sometimes, the solution is adding more chemicals (in the form of prescribed medication, of course) to the balance.

Still, beyond medication for mental health, I find myself skeptical when someone offers me something as simple as low-strength ibuprofen for a headache. Every time I consider taking an aspirin, I am terrified it will somehow "taint" my body. Realistically, I know this is not true, but the voice of my parents lingers in the back of my mind.

I'm not suggesting that I should throw a pill-popping party, but the idea of taking something when my body needs it should not scare me. Our bodies are resilient, but we also need assistance every now and then. I should be okay with helping myself heal.

But I won't be taking one from that miscellaneous plastic bag that "helps you stay awake" during exam week.

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