• Hello! I thought you might be interested in what happened when I told people about my true self. To begin with, my mother and I both have chronic illnesses. Because mine are for the most part invisible, I've always thought that I'd better keep them to myself. After all, how could others possibly believe what they couldn't see? I have spent a lot of time being lonely as a result, and that brings its own sort of pain. 
    Well, for the first time in my life, I decided to take a risk, and I told my secrets to my college classmates. I told them about my life, about all of the problems I deal with every day, and about what it's like to have a parent with a chronic illness. 

    Their response was amazing. I had imagined, of course, that they might not understand, but exactly the oppposite happened. Once I told my story, they were incredible. They behaved as if they could see the real me for the first time!  I took a huge chance when I shared my secrets, and it turned out to be the best thing I could have ever done.  They treat me differently now, not with pity (which I hate), but with empathy. They looked underneath the surface and found the person within...ME! 

    Now I plan on sharing as much as I can whenever I can. I want to become an advocate for people, like me, with invisible disabilities. Bridgetbethany_summer@yahoo.com

  • For a long time I kept secret this invisible intestinal problem I had. But then I lost so much hair that I had a big bald spot.  There was no way that I was going to go back to school bald, so I got special permission to wear a scarf or hat in school.  Up to that point, I had not told anyone about my illness, even my friends.  I thought they'd think I was a freak, or something, especially without  my hair. Then one day, I was stopped in the halls by a teacher who demanded I take off my hat. Grrrrr...I was so angry! 
    I guess that's what motivated me to stop all the secrecy, so I let my friends know about why I was losing my hair!  Instead of treating me like a freak, they were so understanding, even making jokes about how I should wear a sombrero to school one day just to annoy that teacher! 

    Not only were they totally cool about it, they even all went out shopping that week, and got me tons of the coolest scarves and hats!  It was totally unexpected, and I was so amazed that they cared that much.  Then, when I
    had to have a colonoscopy done, one of them called the recovery room, just to see how I was doing!  I was under anesthesia so I couldn't talk, but the thought was so nice.  Through this awful experience, I have learned exactly how great true friends are.  They are always there for me!  Jessica

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Last updated: March 27, 2009