“BUT YOU DON'T LOOK SICK"
Just because someone doesn’t visibly appear ill, doesn’t mean they aren’t. Invisible illnesses are far more common than we realise.
when Selena Gomez cut short her
Stars Dance tour and checked into a rehab facility back in January 2014, the tabloids wrongly speculated that she was having problems with drugs or alcohol.
When she finally admitted it was to help cope with the effects of an autoimmune disease called lupus, which causes fatigue, joint pain and depression, everyone was stunned.
“I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about,” she confessed to Billboard magazine. “I wanted so badly to say: ‘You guys have no idea. I’m in chemotherapy. You’re assholes.’ But I was angry I even felt the need to say that.”
The problem – aside from the lupus itself – is that Selena doesn’t look how a sick person is ‘supposed’ to look. She’s young, vibrant and healthy-looking, with great hair and clear skin.
And Selena’s not the only one.
Bella Hadid, 20, has Lyme disease, which causes pain and exhaustion. Miley Cyrus has hypoglycemia, which affects her blood sugar levels and she gets sick if she doesn’t eat well. Sarah Hyland has kidney dysplasia and needed a kidney transplant.
But if these celebs didn’t speak out about their conditions, we would never even know they were sick.
Invisible illnesses are far more common than we realise – simply because we can’t see them. In fact, one in five Australians has a disability, and a massive 90 per cent of those are unseen.
You may not know it from looking at them, but it’s very likely a few of your classmates and friends are struggling with an invisible illness.
They may be dealing with problems like crippling pain, seizures, anxiety and exhaustion, but to make it worse, they often also have to cope with people who don’t believe they’re ill. Just like Selena, one of the hardest things for people who have chronic, unseen conditions is hearing: “But you don’t LOOK sick!”
We know you want to be a good friend, so if someone you know has an invisible illness, be patient and don’t judge them – even if you don’t really get what they’re going through. If they’re willing to talk about their condition, ask them questions to help you understand better, or do your own research so you know more about their condition and how to support them.
If you’re dealing with a chronic condition, don’t feel embarrassed to talk about it if you want to. Friends, teachers or bosses may struggle to understand, but it can help if you’re willing to talk about it. You may find people are curious about your condition and want to know how to help, or you may find other people are going through similar things.
It’s also important to surround yourself with friends who are supportive, even when your condition interrupts plans. Remember, you’re not boring or unreliable, you’re unwell, so don’t worry about people who only want your friendship when it’s convenient. And look out for support organisations like Livewire, an online community for teens living with illness. We connected with three girls through this community, who shared their stories to help us understand what it’s all about...
One in five Australians has a disability, and cent a massive 90 per of those are unseen.