Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, and Literally Everyone,
Hello! We need to talk about chronic and invisible illnesses. There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding this issue and I’d like to clear it up. A chronic or invisible illness is exactly what it sounds like: you can’t necessarily tell if a person has one by looking at them. You won’t see a cane, wheelchair, or hearing aid. You won’t see the typical physical traits of some conditions. However, you may notice that someone looks thin, tired, or generally unwell, but these illnesses are often not noticeable from the outside. They can be mental or physical, like anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, IBS, lupus, migraines, sleep disorders, and a lot more. If you don’t have an illness that affects your performance: that’s great! If you do… me, too.
I personally have Crohn’s disease. If you look at me, I look just like anybody else “normal.” I may not “look sick,” so when my symptoms are bothering me, people often assume that I am “being lazy” or “dramatic.” Annoying, right? Let me tell you, when my intestines feel like they’re on fire or I’m not able to stick to my diet because people mistakenly assume that I eat gluten-free to be “trendy,” or I’m exhausted from my immune system battling my own body all day, I certainly feel sick.
How does that relate to college? Well, people often assume that everybody has the same capabilities and that academic performance should be prioritized over self-care. And that’s just wrong. Accept and acknowledge that everybody has individual needs and let people make the choices that are best for them. I’ll say it again for the people in the back: let people make the choices that are best for them.
Here are some things that you should avoid saying:
The end of the semester and the incoming cold weather can be a hard transition for everyone, but it can be especially difficult for those with chronic conditions. Instead of making judgements on someone else’s health or assuming that everyone has the same capabilities, try saying something like this:
For those who do have a chronic or invisible illness, here are some tips for you:
- Be open about what you need. People can’t help you if you don’t tell them what you need, and hopefully you find that most people are accommodating.
- Rest. Eat the food you need. Take a break. Be gentle with yourself
- Explain to people what a chronic or invisible illness is. Knowledge is power.
If you would like more information, check this out! For all the people who struggle with invisible conditions and for all the people who don’t, I hope this helped to clear up some questions.
May the rest of your semester be a strong and healthy one!