This month, I want to talk about hidden illnesses. If you’re reading this, you probably have one, or you know someone that has a hidden illness. Not only do we have to deal with the illness, we have to deal with what other people think of us! Even now, ten years on, I sometimes think to myself what other people must think about me.
The blessing about having an ileostomy is that it is hidden.
No one has to know that you have a stoma, no one has to know that you have a bag attached to your stomach, and that is fantastic… I love the fact that I can walk down the street and absolutely no one would know what I have been through.
But on the flip side…
When I do need to use something to do with my stoma, the anxiety of having a hidden illness creeps in. For example, if I needed to use a disabled toilet and there was a queue of people waiting outside – what would they think of me?
Would they look at me and think, “He shouldn’t be using this toilet, he’s not disabled!” Thankfully, I have never been confronted but I have been given dirty looks for using disabled toilets. I never like to get in to conflict with anyone, so this has always been a fear of mine.
It’s the same as when I go travelling. If you have seen my other blog posts, you would know that I love going to Disneyland Paris. When I am there, I get a disability card. This allows me to get a timeslot or be able to enter a queue for a ride or event at a different place so that I don’t have to stand around for too long.
People must think, “Why does he get special treatment?”
For years, it really bothered me, to the point where I just wouldn’t use anything that I was entitled to, in fear of being judged. Most of the time, it is easier to just blend in and get on with it, but sometimes – you just can’t!
I think that it’s a pretty normal feeling to worry about being judged, so if you are feeling this way – I can totally relate! Nowadays, ten years on, I do still think about it, but I wouldn’t mind if I was confronted now.
I’d take the opportunity to educate someone about hidden illnesses, inflammatory bowel disease and stomas.
Before, I couldn’t think of anything worse than lifting my top up to show someone my bag, but that fear has pretty much gone now! I recently had to explain to someone about what happened to me and when I could tell how confused they were, it was easier just to show it.
I have no shame in my stoma now. I think I have fully accepted it and if I didn’t have it, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog post!
So, while I am here, I want to be able to use my experience to teach everyone else that doesn’t have a clue about the illnesses.
Overall, people are going to judge. No matter what you do, no matter who you are, that is the human race. We all judge, whether we mean it in a nasty way or not. If people see people getting something or doing something that someone else can’t – people have an opinion. This works the same with hidden illnesses. Never take it personal, if you are ever confronted – it’s because they aren’t educated. Use your knowledge to correct them and teach them.
Not only will this make the person who confronted you want the world to swallow them whole, it will also help to spread the word and educate.
Just keep being you and fight the stigma of hidden illnesses, we’re all in this together!
Until next time!
New to reading Nathan’s blog? Check out his first ever post with us: My Journey From Colitis To Ileostomy – My Experience.