You don't know they're trying not to grimace from the pain they've become accustomed to. You don't know how many times they've tried to ensure they remember your name and yet still can't because of the brain fog that ravages their mind. You don't understand that their 'butterfingers' are in fact cognitive dysfunction. These are all part and parcel of having an invisible illness - there are many other symptoms too, but today I am talking from personal experience.
I often have to use a cane. It's not ideal, I'm trying to get a wheelchair but it's awkward and I can't afford to just buy one. I'm almost 21, so I'm young. I see elderly people with better mobility than I have, and I can't seem to go out and use my aid without someone staring or giving me a look of disgust. Yes, I'm young and disabled, is that really so preposterous? Can a young person not be suffering? Yes, yes they can. Ill health holds no prisoners.
And of course, you're too scared to ask. I'm very open about my health problems, I wouldn't mind if somebody took time out of their day to ask about my wellbeing, especially when I still don't really know anyone in the area. I don't understand why people seem to feel so awkward, we're the ones with the illness and disibility!
I used to be very intelligent. I like to think I still am. I did very well, I could juggle many tasks, remember everything. I was reading the 'grown up books' in primary school before everyone else and I wrote well. Nowadays, I jumble up my words if I try to read aloud, I read the same parts over and over again and in my head and still it does not compute. People think I'm illiterate, but you can't see my illness and know how it is doing a number on my mind by looking at me.
Brain fog - the mind can not comprehend the simplest things at times, you forget things told to you just a moment before, nothing really sinks in properly. You lose your way in a place you've been to a hundred times before, encounter a problem you've had to solve many times, but on your life, just cannot remember the solution, where to go, what to do, what you've seen or who you've encountered.
We all have off days with similar symptoms to these, but this is what I endure on a daily basis. I can't express how frustrating it is. I can remember things from weeks ago with perfect recall, but when it comes to short term memory or something that involves logic, it's all gone. Nothing. You look pretty darn daft and people just assume you're stupid. People knock on my door and give me a funny look for being in my pajamas at three in the afternoon. "I'm sick" I reply if they ever comment. This is my own home, I should be able to do what I want, not worry people are assuming I am lazy when that's far from the case.
Some days, there are few problems, some days, there are many. Chances are, all of our encounters are on good days, so you don't understand the sudden change if we cross paths on a bad day. It varies day to day. It's unpredictable and there isn't a darned thing we can do about it. Generally, I'm pretty clumsy and forgetful. I trip over myself and my own words, but you can't see that this is because of the health conditions I've been fighting for years. Yet you still judge? Why are you wasting your time judging someone? Why aren't you considering that there is more than meets the eye? Why can't you be friendly and ask, reach out instead of being just yet another idiot who is ogling, discriminating and shutting us out?
There are a lot more of us out there than you could ever imagine. But you don't know, you can't tell, and you don't care about asking either. Well, we don't really care for your judgement either. Don't ogle. Ask.
Liz suffers from M.E. To find out more about her condition, click here.
Written by Elizabeth Fleming of BeneBelle.