I am a hard worker and an overachiever. I take pride in my work. I happen to have a chronic illness. Two of them, actually. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me when I’m having a good day, and maybe not even when I’m having a bad day.
I hope that, by showing the world what I can do, I can help dispel the stigma attached to people like me, people with disabilities. Some people are visibly disabled; you can tell because they’re in wheelchairs, or using guide dogs to get around town. Many people will judge them just by looking at them. There are other people who don’t look sick at all, people with invisible disabilities. Many people will judge them, too, whether or not they are aware that a disability exists.
I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, also known as CFS. Some people, even doctors, don’t believe this is a real illness, even though it is recognized by both the CDC and Social Security. Let me assure you, this illness is real. It’s not just about being tired all the time. It’s about a bone deep exhaustion that most people will never experience or understand. Some people are bedridden, and others are able to carry on like “normal” people during the day before crashing at night, barely able to move. It can take days or weeks for a person with CFS to physically recover from exertion, both mental and physical. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t capable of working like anyone else, so long as reasonable accommodations are made to allow for our “bad” days. We are not lazy. We will work to the best of our abilities, when given the chance. Freelance work is excellent for people with mild to moderate CFS, and telecommuting can allow us to work up to 40 hours weeks without anyone knowing we had to take a two hour nap in the middle of the afternoon to recharge our brains.
I also have Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression. Yes, I am mentally ill. I have never made a secret of this. I am not ashamed of my mood disorders. It is generally well managed under my doctor’s care and current treatment plan. I am not crazy. (Although I may joke that I am from time to time.) There is some ridiculous stigma against people with mental illness, and it just isn’t fair. As my doctor often jokes with me, his patients are often far healthier and more sane than “normal” people, because his patients are more self-aware and taking corrective steps to become better people! Chances are, you know someone who struggles with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. They may not share that with you because they are ashamed, or have lost relationships with people who didn’t take the news well. They may or may not be in treatment. They need your support and understanding. We are fully functional members of society who just happen to have some issues with brain chemistry.
And I am autistic. I was diagnosed with Asperger Disorder, also known as Asperger’s Syndrome, not long before the DSM-V decided to lump all autism spectrum disorders under the same heading. I went over 30 years of my life not knowing I was autistic, but I know now that it’s why I’m so keen on spelling and grammar, why I can focus on my various obsessions for long periods of time, why I’m more than a little bit awkward socially, and why any change in my routine can really mess with my head.
So now you know more than you probably wanted to know. But it’s out there. It was out there before I created this page, because I’ve been open about it in my blogging and in social media.
I’m not a celebrity, but I hope I’m public enough to change the minds of a few people when they think about chronic illness. Feel free to contact me for public service campaigns or media opportunities related to advocacy for people living with chronic illness.