Is Wearing a Mask Always a Bad Thing When You Live With a Chronic Illness?
Given Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis are often referred to as “invisible illnesses,” most people wouldn’t recognize when someone is suffering from IBD. While there are many physical reasons for this, most people with inflammatory bowel disease have also become masters at hiding what is really going on with their body and mind.
When I really think about this topic and look at how often I wore my own mask, I actually understand myself a little better. I realize maybe I liked being fake to some degree.
Sometimes it's nice to put on a mask
I guess in some ways, putting on a disguise in front of other people made me feel like my life wasn’t just about medications, pain, surgeries, and other health related things. Pretending like nothing was wrong and immersing myself in whatever event or situation I was in made me feel like I was living the life I deserved, to an extent. For even a short time, wearing a mask allowed me to focus on something other than what was going on with my body and/or mind.
Living with any kind of chronic illness can really change so much about you
A lot of times, I feel like I don’t recognize the life I have. Often, I miss the person I hoped to become. It is hard to come to grips when you realize you are no longer the person you once were. It takes letting go and accepting that you are the person you were truly meant to be - even if it isn’t something you would have chosen if given the option. When you finally let go and accept who you are, you can begin to give yourself a break. Even just a little one.
I feel as though I have spent so many years since the age of 13 putting on a phony face and pretending to be “fine” when I was anything but. I know I am not the only one who suffers from a chronic illness like inflammatory bowel disease who hides how they are feeling most of the time.
This is why we hide how we're feeling
For starters, we don’t want to worry our loved ones.
We also don’t want to be treated differently.
We don’t want to be looked at as downers.
We want to enjoy the things our peers do.
We want to be accepted and loved.
We want to fit in.
We don’t want to share what is going on with our bodies because most of the time, it is not pretty.
We worry about being too vulnerable then wonder why no one really understands the real us.
We worry about not coming off strong.
We want to be the person we were before we ever knew what living with a chronic illness felt like.
We want to be the person we always felt we “should” be.
Putting on a phony face
I go back and forth a lot in my mind about whether it is worth it sometimes to put on a phony face. When I think back to some of the best times in my life, it is those times when I am doing my best to lead as “normal” a life as possible. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, those moments only happen when I really force myself to get out of my own little world. I have noticed that sometimes I start out being smiley and fake only then to feel a little better emotionally. So even though I am in pain, unable to eat, or going through what I am physically, I recognize how imperative it is that I not let it bring me down. I give myself permission to get into my pjs and do whatever I need to do the second I get home, but for that set amount of time, I commit to being a little phony.
What are your thoughts on this? We would love to hear in the comments below!
What is your comfort level disclosing your IBD to your employer?