I know I look well but you don’t see me at 4am when all my pain meds have done a runner. When I rock back and forth in pain and tears run down my face. Or perhaps when I wake to realise I’ve been asleep for 21 hours. You probably don’t notice my legs tremble under the table or the pain in my eye. I’ve learnt tricks to make myself present well, I plaster a smile across my face and an unholy amount of concealer under my bags. And hey presto I’m a new woman. One that might feel like she’s about to break but hopes she looks like she is killing it. The wellness mask is way of me pretending I’m fine, it’s something I pull out for so many different reasons;
* The likelihood is if you spend enough time with me to see my wellness mask often, I love you in some way. I don’t want you to see me struggle or worry about the way I am coping.
* I don’t want to be a killjoy, as juvenile as that may sound. No matter how much you love someone some days you’re just not emotionally prepared for the kind of negativity sickness can bring.
* Looking miserable or in pain promotes questions. Sometimes I don’t want to talk about it.
*When you think of me, I want you to think of the same person you always have. I want to be ‘just Vanessa’. I accepted a long time ago that too often the way of referencing me is “the girl in the wheelchair.” I refuse to claim the title of the sick girl too.
* I’m the google definition of very single. I already come with more baggage /wheels than your average 22-year olds. The last thing I need to do is send a potential partner running for the hills by rubbing chronic illness in their face or look like I’m on deaths door 24/7.
* I want to be treated “normal.” I still want to hear about your life/problems and talk about all the same pointless things. I learnt very quickly if I present myself as sick all the time people don’t know how to act round you or what to say.
* I want to be invited. I’m a sociable person, I’m still the same person I have always been. I want to go on holiday, I want to get drunk, I want to go to new places. Let’s face it, sad but true no one is going to invite you anywhere if you have a face like thunder every time they do.
* I still want to be reliable. I try my absolute best to not cancel plans even if it is a bad pain day or I feel particularly ill. I still want to be a good friend, sister, aunty ect, that can be dependable despite everything.
The wellness mask can be wonderful and its thereby my own choice. However, it can backfire. When people who are supposed to understand assume that because you look fine on social media you are fine. I’ve had to play 20 questions of why I don’t work more than once. I am far from lazy. I miss work more that I can possible explain and didn’t want to leave. Just because you think by looking at me once that I’m fine and should work doesn’t mean I can. Quite frankly if I didn’t ask for your opinion on my health or lack of job, don’t give me it. I chose to present myself to the world as fine because I don’t want the world to see me as not. But please don’t judge me for it.