Invisible Illness

I know a number of people who suffer from what are sometimes called “invisible illnesses.” I’m one of those people.

I have fibromyalgia. It’s a chronic pain condition, and when it’s at its worst I describe it as “being wrapped in a blanket of pain.” On those 1-10 pain scales hospitals use, my baseline is other people’s 2. There is never a time some part of my body doesn’t hurt.

In addition to the pain, fibro gives me “brain fog.” Sometimes I can’t remember things, even, at times, how to do something I do on a regular basis. Which is pretty dang scary, let me tell you. And it and the migraines I also experience affect my balance and depth perception to the point that sometimes I can’t make it down a flight of stairs without help. (Going upstairs is easier; going downstairs, I might miss the step. And I can’t even attempt down escalators, because between the movement and the wonky depth perception, I can’t guess where to put my feet.)

I’m not saying any of this to get pity or sympathy. I’m saying it because I look like a perfectly healthy human being. On my low-pain days, I can move around and walk easily, other than those pesky stairs. The only time anyone other than my loved ones notice that I’m in pain is if I’m at the higher end of the scale—except if I’m at a 7 or higher, I usually don’t leave the house.

I have a handicapped parking tag for my car, one of the type you hang from the rearview mirror. I also have a cane, which I try really hard not to use, but sometimes I haven’t much choice. If it’s a reasonable day, I park in a regular parking space and go without the cane, but if I’m in pain or my balance is off, I use my tag and take a handicapped spot. And I get out with my cane…but sometimes I still get glared at, because I don’t look like I need the spot or the cane.

The point I’m trying to make is, don’t assume someone’s healthy just by how they look. Mental illnesses don’t show on the surface. Neither do physical conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, immune deficiencies, and a number of other things. Instead of assuming someone’s lying or faking it because they don’t look like your definition of sick, assume they’re being honest. Remember that you can’t tell what’s going on in someone else’s mind or body.

It’s a cliché, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Please.

Hate Doesn’t Solve Problems

A lot of people in the United States are scared right now. Actually, from what I’m seeing on Facebook, I think a lot of people in the world are scared.

I’m not a very political person, so I’m not going to go into the whole issue of our newly-elected President. What I am going to get into, though, is looking out for one another.

Even before the election, people supporting the President-Elect were ranting against those who didn’t support him. People were committing acts some would consider hate crimes, and in some cases law enforcement investigated those acts as such. Now that the election is over, those things are happening even more, and the hatred runs on both sides of the situation.

Maya Angelou once said, “Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.” Hate is certainly causing a lot of problems now, everywhere from businesses to city streets to schools. Even in kindergartens.

You don’t have to like everyone. You don’t have to agree with everyone. But we live in a world where different races, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identities… Okay, the list of ways in which we are different is so long I know I’m going to forget things. But the point is, our world is not a place where everyone is the same. It isn’t a place where everyone *thinks* the same. And that’s part of what makes it a wonderful world to be in.

So please, practice acceptance. Tolerance. At the very least, practice neutrality. If you can, help and support those who are targeted because of a way in which they’re “different.” The safety pin, that small object that sometimes holds clothes together and can usually never be found when you need one, has become a symbol for those who stand with people who are being targeted.

This blog is a safe place. My Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…all safe spaces. Heck, if you see me on the street and need someone to have your back, just say so. (Even though I probably won’t be actually wearing a safety pin, because I honestly can’t find one of the blasted things anywhere in my apartment…)

If you can, be someone safe for others. If you’re in a category that’s a target, I hope you stay safe. And if you can’t be safe, if you can’t stand with your fellow humans, at least please don’t add to the hate. Try to solve the problem rather than causing it.