Invisible Illness, Invisible Person
Having an invisible illness sometimes feels like being an invisible person. This happens in so many ways:
- When I tell someone I’m getting a migraine and the response is, “No you’re not.”
- When someone changes the subject every time I mention anything at all about migraine – even when what I’m saying is that I feel better than I have in years.
- When someone jokes that migraine is all in my head.
None of the people who've said these things have had bad intentions. Maybe they fear illness or don’t know how to talk to someone who is open about a taboo topic. Perhaps they honestly believe I’m making a big deal over “just a headache” or that I’d get better if I tried harder. Whatever beliefs drive their behavior, they all have the same outcome – I wonder if that person has any interest at all in me or what’s happening my life.
While I don’t want to be all-migraine-all-the-time, migraine is a part of me. When a loved one doesn’t acknowledge how drastically migraine has changed my life, I feel like my true self is just as invisible to them as my illness is. I want my loved ones to see all aspects of me, not only the parts that don’t make them squirm. When someone ignores my reality, brushes off my experience or tries to “fix” my migraines, it tells me that they don’t care about me, they only care about who they want me to be.
The people I’m closest to now are those who make the effort to see how migraine has shaped my life. They’re the ones who tell me I’m brave, that I’m moving mountains, that they are in awe of my strength. I love them not because they praise me, but because they see all of me. The good, the bad; the strong, the weak; the optimistic, the downtrodden.
I don’t want to be seen only as a person with chronic migraine, but to have all facets of my identity acknowledged and respected. Migraine isn’t all that I am, but it’s a huge part of my life. Migraine makes my life extraordinarily difficult at times, but it also makes every triumph even greater. It has taken me many years to believe the friends who tell me that I’m strong and brave. Now that I see it, I don’t want to waste my energy on anyone who refuses to look.
When it comes to planning vacations or other events where travel is required, how much does migraine factor into your decision-making?