How Someone Looks May Not Be How They Feel

“But you look so healthy?!” 

“Oh dear, you look really sick today”

“You look so normal. I would never have guessed you were sick or in pain”. 

Everytime I hear someone utter these words at me I want to scream. 

I don’t know if it is the sheer assumption on someone else’s well-being without asking them how they actually are, or the shallowness that how we look is more important than our well-being, or just ignorance. 

We are all icebergs – we all look elevated, posed and calm on the surface. Underneath we are intimidating, complicated and prone to change. 

In an ideal world I wish people would ask how we are before they assume based on looks. 

On a few occasions I have had people tell me how ‘sick’ I look – yes, some days it is true. However on days when you actually feel ok, it can be a bit deflating. I have had instances where I have come out of a flare up and started to feel good again, only to be told I look sick. Imagine if you were super excited to be out and about and feeling much improved after a tough spell. When the body is still recovering we don’t always look that good, it can take weeks for improvements to show on the surface. When you are already feeling vulnerable, this can be another difficult judgement loaded on to you. 

Sometimes I wish I had a photo, a video or daily timelapse of what really sick looks like compared to a good day, just to show them. It may be a bit passive aggressive, but we never see what most people with chronic conditions are like during a flare up. Because really, who has the energy or time to focus on educating the public when you are trying to keep the basic functions of your body running?

Selma Blair recently came out about her battle with Multiple Sclerosis and made a point that no one sees the flare ups and she is trying to change that through thoughtful posts on her Instagram account. Bravo!

On the other side of the spectrum, there are comments that go along the lines of “but you look so healthy / normal / active / etc?”. This is when on the outside you appear fine so it is assumed that you couldn’t possibly have pain or a serious medical condition. Which begs the question – What is it meant to look like then? In some cases, seeing is still the only way to believe. 

I get the question about looking so healthy and normal a lot. I work pretty hard to stay healthy and moving because it lessens the effects of my conditions and I don’t want to also be dealing with additional issues that come with unhealthy lifestyles. Having optimal health in any area that you can manage or control is vital when dealing with serious pain and conditions. My condition and pain isn’t obvious either. In one way this allows me to blend into the crowd, but on the flip side it can be a hard fight to gain consideration. 

We can be Both / And – we are all multifaceted people.   

We can be both healthy and in pain. 

We can be both frail and convalescing. 

We need to take a step back from voicing our assumptions on how people feel or their current well-being. Ask how they are, how their health has been lately, before throwing in the “But you look so healthy / sick / etc” comment. The ‘but’ at the start of the comment discounts the actual experience of the person. It may be given as a compliment or a concern, and we need to realise it may not land as we plan it to. 

Check in first then comment if appropriate. We all just want to be seen and heard for how we really are.

Take heart Readers, I’ll keep the light on.

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