Shame is a tricky, abstract thing. It’s like a pain tolerance, almost everyone has it to some degree. But for some, shame is intertwined with pain.
Those who suffer from unseen and misunderstood diseases face the shame of cooping with their symptoms in front of an oblivious audience. Society has made astounding advances in sympathetic medical care when it come to conditions that are clearly visible and widely understood; however, these advancements have not fully progressed to rare and hidden diseases.
Anyone who manages an internal condition or a form of chronic pain has experienced the shame that their health brings.
Before my Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) went into remission, every day was a battle. I fought the pain, struggled to get through each day, and yearned for others to understand my predicament. I attempted to conceal the special leggins and TENS unit I wore to try to reduce the pain. Every time that I had to explain why I left class early or had a TENS clipped to my belt, I was overcome by a tidal wave of shame. Why couldn’t I be like them? Why does my body hate me? Why do they judge me? Why can’t I have a normal high school experience? And the questions kept crashing onto the shores of my mind.
Every trip to Riley left me questioning my pain tolerance and if I was justified in asking my parents to get the pain to stop. Every medical test left me wondering how much more/longer I had to endure before I had answers. Every time I had to look up into my parents’ depressed eyes left me feeling guilty for hurting them.
I was trapped in a whirlpool of pain and shame. I was stuck between getting through every day as I needed and meeting everyone else’s expectations. Because no one could see my pain, they only saw a girl who left class early, wore leggins under her jeans, had a small box under her shirt, and wouldn’t let anyone get near her knee. I didn’t want pity, I just wanted others to understand.
No one should be shamed for the things gone unseen. Thankfully, mental illnesses have recently flourished into an open topic. This progress shows promise for the victims of invisible captors, but society cannot leave anyone behind in their shame. The pain is enough to bear without hurricanes of shame and guilt that they to batten down for.