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COLUMN: The illness we don't see



Whether we admit to it or not, we judge each other every day. Maybe you roll your eyes when someone takes the elevator in Ballantine one floor up, or you give someone a death stare when they take the bus for two stops.

But many of these people may have chronic illnesses.

In fact, there are more young people suffering from chronic illnesses or disabilities than you might think.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found half of all American adults have at least one chronic disease. This includes diabetes, arthritis and more. University of Alabama researchers estimate up to 25 percent of 18-29 year-olds live with chronic pain.

And according to the National Health Institute, one in five people struggle with mental illness and one in 25 are considered disabled because of their mental illness.

When you see the numbers, it’s not hard to imagine that many of our peers are dealing with more than what you see on the surface.

I am one of them.

For many years, I’ve been dealing with several chronic illnesses. I look healthy, so you couldn’t tell I struggle with my health. These are not any fault of my own, but caused by stress and genetics.

You might have to tell a friend you can’t meet because you have a migraine or you’re too exhausted. Your grades might hang in the balance if your class attendance takes hits from your illnesses.

Even when things seem to be under control, you always live with a caution sign flashing in your head, warning you not to trigger anything that would cause a flare-up.

Your college years are supposed to be the best of your life, so it’s discouraging to know you can’t enjoy it to the fullest. It’s more discouraging to know others don’t understand this. They may assume you’re lazy, faking it or weak.

Others who struggle with chronic illness know all you can do is take care of yourself and ignore the ignorance.

We see the mean looks, hear the condescending voices and know how others talk behind our backs.

We take our medicine and try our best to get along like everyone else. It is important others understand this reality.

The next time you judge someone as lazy but perfectly healthy, know a lot of students may be hiding a battle with an illness. Show compassion and try not to think the worst of a person whose situation you do not know.

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