A few years ago, I was told that “I didn’t look sick enough to call in sick” by my manager. I won’t lie, it caught me off guard. Physical, emotional and mental exhaustion takes its toll whether others can see it or not. Faking being well is something everyone with an invisible illness has likely tried to do with varying degrees of success. I just happen to be really good at it because I’ve been doing it for over 16 years and my specific mental illness allows for it.
It just goes to show that we have more work to do in the mental health education space. There is clearly still a lack of awareness about mental health and how it affects people. Just because someone doesn’t show external signs of illness does not mean they do not have one. What’s worse is that I work in a healthcare setting that includes a psychiatric unit. It seems society only recognizes extremely severe cases of mental illness. While, it’s true that I have a milder, chronic form of anxiety, it is beyond frustrating when it is dismissed as nothing.
It is a daily struggle and when it becomes too much, I do whatever is necessary to take care of my mental health. If that means taking a day off from school or work, then I will take a day off and not feel guilty about it. After experiencing burnout at 23 years old, I promised myself that I would never let myself deteriorate to that level again and I won’t, not for anything or anyone.
When it comes down to it, it’s your health and your responsibility to maintain it. You cannot rely on others to know what is best for you. That is something to be discussed and decided upon by you and your doctor. Many people may mean well by offering their opinions but in the end, it’s your health and wellbeing at stake.
Have you ever had someone dismiss your invisible illness?
Let me know in the comments!