Just be­cause some­one doesn’t vis­i­bly ap­pear ill, doesn’t mean they aren’t. In­vis­i­ble ill­nesses are far more com­mon than we re­alise.

Girlfriend - - GF FEATURES -

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.

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