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Having a chronic health condition often means living with a lot aches, pains, soreness, fatigue and a whole host of other bizarre and difficult to describe symptoms. At times, it can be a weary way to live.

Many of us though, have learned to mask our pain, to mask our symptoms, to mask our condition. We don’t look sick and we’ve become adept at compensating for our deficits.

We wear a mask. We look perfectly normal, that’s the trickery of it, but if we were to let you take a peek under our mask, you would see a different side of us. It’s likely we would be unrecognizable to you.

Under our mask is where we hide our permanent grimace. Under our mask is where we hide our fear. Under our mask is where we secretly live a distressing and sometimes terrifying reality.

Why do we wear this mask? There are several reasons, I suppose.

We wear this mask for you. We don’t want to frighten you. We wear this mask for ourselves. We want normalcy in our lives as much as you do. We wear this mask to help ourselves push forward. We wear this mask to deny our reality because sometimes it is too overwhelming for us to face.

Over time we come to both appreciate the mask we wear and resent it at the same time. We appreciate the mask because it keeps us from alienating ourselves from the healthy and the well. Wearing our mask keeps us safe from appearing to be too vulnerable, too weak.

But, we also resent our mask, because we feel pressure to wear it order to make others comfortable. We know that if we don’t wear it, there are those who will judge us unreasonably, which is another pain we do not need and is not fair.

Consequently, our disease remains invisible to most and perhaps this is as it should be. Perhaps this is the way it is meant to be. Perhaps our mask provides us with the opportunity to remain a part of the world. Perhaps our mask actually provides us a freedom we would not otherwise have.