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8 Things Women With “Invisible” Diseases Want You To Know
You look so good. You re faking it. It s all in your head. These are all words women suffering from so-called invisible diseases conditions without obvious physical symptoms hear frequently, sometimes on a daily basis. (Never say these 50 things about someone s health .) But their pain is real. Here s what 8 of them want you to know.
Please offer to help.
When I was in my 20s, I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope. a condition that triggers your heart rate and blood pressure to drop suddenly, causing dizziness, nausea, and even fainting. For some reason, my syncope was also tied into my GI tract, so instead of just passing out my stomach would start violently convulsing and everything would come out of both ends.
When I was in my late 30s, the condition really flared up, and I was constantly fainting and having to go to the hospital. I had a toddler and a husband who worked long hours. I was so lucky that many of my friends and family members stepped up to the plate to support me I could always find someone to meet me at the hospital and another person to watch my daughter. It was really crucial that I always have someone at my side, because I couldn t advocate for myself in the ER given the state I d be in when I got there. If you know a friend is battling a disease, no matter how invisible, please reach out and ask how you can help. She needs it more than you can ever realize.
Alexandra Petticome*, 45, New York City
Please understand I sometimes need my space.
I have premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD), which means that for about one week each month I sink into a dark funk that seems impossible to climb out of. If someone gives me a sideways look or raises their voice even slightly, I cry. I take Prozac for the last half of my cycle, which helps, but there s nothing I can do to snap out of it. It s part of who I am, part of my biology. Unfortunately, people just view it as glorified PMS and don t understand if I am weepy, or short-tempered, or simply just so miserable I can t bring myself to get out of bed. It s terrible to feel that your mind is so out of control for several days every month, and it s difficult with a job because you can t show those same emotions that you so desperately seek to hide.
Carol Dicker*, 27, Montclair, NJ
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I may look put together, but I’m falling apart.
Two and a half years ago, I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital for electroconvulsive therapy to treat severe, debilitating depression. The nurse looked at me and said, You don t look like a patient! , which dumbfounded me. It seemed such an odd, unfortunate thing to say. People really have this notion that someone with mental illness should look like they are straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo s Nest. when in reality so many of us look like we re on top of the world. When I was at my sickest, I still got up, showered, put on makeup, and dressed nicely for work. No one in a million years would ever know what I was going through.
Risa Sugarman, 42, West Hartford, CT
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No, even if I really, really try, I still can’t do it.
I suffer from such severe claustrophobia that I can t ride an elevator or go on an airplane. People don t understand that they think that if I just pop a Xanax and really put my mind to it I ll be fine. They say, But you drive, so why can t you fly? or If you can ride the subway, you can handle an elevator. They have no clue that the anxiety I experience in those situations is completely crippling. It s like telling a quadriplegic that if she just closes her eyes and wishes it and visualizes it enough, she ll be able to walk.
Devon Simmons*, 49, White Plains, NY