Wego says (it’s like Simon Says, except no one is making you stand on one leg while rubbing your tummy): Share something you’d like to teach other Health Activists.
I want to teach you to rip off the invisible badge.
“Most chronic illnesses are invisible.” I’ve seen that statement a lot and it’s true. It’s not like we walk into a room and tattooed across our foreheads is a numbered list of what ails us. We look healthy at first glance. We may have pains and aches and complications, but if we’re standing in line next to you at the grocery store, you wouldn’t know if we had a chronic illness. Even as open as I am with my diabetes, there are still days when I tuck the pump away or try to be inconspicuous with my glucose testing. I don’t want the focus to be about my illness; I want it to be about me.
So I wear the invisible badge, pinned to my sash. Throughout my day, trying to be part of the general population, the badge that says: “invisible illness” is there, but you can’t see it. A lot of us wear this badge. I wonder what would happen if we all decided not to wear it.
Yesterday, I tore the badge from the sash and chucked it in the trash.
The kid and I were at a major amusement park and she loves the toddler water play area. (She also loves the carousel, the bouncy area, the retaining wall, and the trees, so I’m thinking she not too particular in what she loves right now…) The last time we were there, I wore a T-shirt, covering the pump set and the CGM sensor and hung back, letting her run in and out of the sparkling water sprays. My heart hurt. Somewhere, in my little brain, that voice whispered: “It’s OK to let the world see who you are…all of you.”
This time, the bikini top went on, my pump strapped to the inside of my shorts, and we frolicked in the blazing sun, letting the cold water create rainbows over our heads. My invisible illness was on blatant display. You couldn’t miss the sensor on one side of my abdomen and the infusion set and tubing on the other side. We meandered slowly through the park, waving good-bye to the pink “mingos” and the trees (Should I be worried about her insistence at waving to the trees?), and I felt…free.
Yes, people stared.
I’ve decided that I would rather them stare than not see all of me.
My diabetes is not invisible to my family and friends, so why should I wear the invisible badge when I’m in public? I’m a health activist.
And today, I’m a health activist with a sunburn, because I forgot to apply sunblock. Definitely not invisible anymore.