When someone suffers with a cold, infection, or allergies, it becomes much easier to ‘see’ the sickness. Accompanying each of these conditions is inflammation, the kind that often causes redness that is visible to the observer. If we see someone with signs of infection, the outward signs make it easier to avoid that person to reduce the risk of picking up the offending virus or bacteria. Very helpful, in fact, because who ‘wants’ to be sick?
Diseases such as multiple sclerosis also involve inflammation, but not the kind that is visible to the naked eye. Our inflammation is internal, occurring in and around the central nervous system, about as far inside the body as you can get. This type of inflammation can only be detected by special tests.
Do you want to look sick?
Now that’s a tough question. I don’t believe that any of us really want to look sick. But we do appreciate empathy for the unseen. It’s difficult to feel understood when others can’t fully appreciate how complex the effects of our disease are.
Even when you possess the make-up, hair, and clothes of a talk show host and a smile that brightens a room, it’s hard not to feel sick if you don’t feel good or have significant physical or cognitive dysfunction.
What do they really mean?
I suspect that when someone says, ‘But you don’t look sick!”, they really mean to express an acknowledgement that you are facing and overcoming an unknown challenge with an enormous amount of grace and strength.
Or, perhaps, they simply want you to know that you look great!!! Your physical, emotional, and spiritual strengths are shining through the many challenges and disappointments of living with MS.
At risk of annoying some readers, let me suggest that the next time someone says, ‘But you don’t look sick!”, please respond with an enthusiastic, “Thank you!!” and smile with the knowledge that you are stronger than MS.
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"But You Don't Look Sick"