Today I attended an author fair at my local library. Book seekers would stop by and I would give them my best sales pitch. They usually asked about my background, how I created the book. As a heart failure patient, I shared my experience battling this disease. And they would say “so you had heart failure?” No, I still have heart failure and always will. One customer said, ” you don’t look sick.”
That customer walked on to the next author table, but her statement lingered in my head. What does heart failure and a brain injury look like? If I wore an oxygen mask and walked with a walker and wore a helmet maybe then society would know how sick I am.
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic illnesses you will never see. They battle their disease with courage, often suffering in silence. No one can see the struggles I face every day with my brain injury and cardiac condition. Because I don’t show a physical illness outwardly, society judges me as fine. Are we more compassionate for someone in a wheelchair versus someone who has stage 4 lung cancer who shows no sign of illness?
I think the answer is yes. Have you ever had a co worker miss work, and you think to yourself, they look fine, doubting their illness.
We as a society need to stop judging others by their physical appearance. Can we start living nonjudgmentally?
I will always have heart failure, other chronic illnesses, but hope to live my life as fully as possible for as long as I can. I hope I never hear but you don’t look sick again. Instead say, you look great.