Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Rage Against the Latrine

I'm angry. 

Not an uncommon occurrence; I'm generally pretty fury-filled on a regular basis, about anything from the injustice of children dying in hunger to there being only one bus every 40minutes after my shift finishes. But today in particular, I'm angry because I have an invisible disability, and people around me, (some complete strangers and some people I've known (and liked) for years), question the validity of my condition on a daily basis. 

Today I cried in the toilet of my work place. Somewhere I spend a large portion of my day because I have a condition which means I often need to go to the loo for prolonged periods, throw up, put my head between my legs so I don’t pass out or dab myself down because I have a sky-high fever and don’t want to appear like a sweaty mess in public. 
I know every crack in every tile in that bathroom because I've rested my face on the cold wall when i'm burning up. 
I know which cubicle floor has uneven lino because I've knelt on it when I'm cradling the toilet bowl vomitting up my lunch. 
I know which toilet cubicle is the cleanest and which has a dodgy flush because I am in there between 10-20 times a day. 

So when I come out of the bathroom, and someone asks me why I'm in there "again" or something of that ilk, (in a voice filled with more suspicion than even Peter Falk could convincingly pull off), I want to punch the doubt right off their smug face. But today, because I have the energy of a sloth with a hangover, my first instinct was to go straight back in and cry.

I used to worry that my anger at outsider's lack of interest and complete ignorance at my condition was making matters worse. That maybe the stress holding this anger was putting me under was just exacerbating my symptoms. But the minute I tried to let it go and tolerate the stupid insensitive comments, I found myself feeling weaker. Pathetic and frustrated at my lack of back-bone. I wanted to explain they were wrong and that my symptoms are genuine and how damaging it can be to insult already vulnerable people with their thoughtlessness, but then I was fighting a losing battle. One I don’t have the energy for, 99% of the time. 

But then that frustration at the inane ignorance of others turned to anger and I realised that this anger can actually be powerful. It puts a fire in my belly. Well, another fire in my belly.

Ignorant people cant fathom patients who stand up for themselves and challenge their misconceptions about our illness. We just don’t fit their mould. People with invisible disabilities should be weak and helpless. We certainly shouldn't talk back or question their beliefs. Oh and it goes without saying that we should all be in wheelchairs with bandages wrapped around us to make it easy for EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET to establish we are ILL. 

If we stand up for ourselves and show a little fight we are generally disbelieved to an even greater extent because we are pushing it too hard, or accused of shoving our illness down peoples throats. Where's the balance? 
I'm going to stay angry. And stand up for myself and my friends, and others in the same poorly boat. Not because I want to punish the precious parts of my internal organs I still retain, but because the angrier I get the easier it becomes to correct you when you tell me I shouldn’t eat this or I shouldn’t do that. 
It makes it easier to tell you that my disease is mine and mine alone, and that your 'opinion' on it is utterly invalid. 
It makes it easier to live with an illness that has to be factored into every single decision I make, every single day of my life.

I'm angry because its visible, and audible, even when my disease is not. 

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