Nobody Knows I’m Sick

Nobody knows I’m sick
When I drive down the highway and I cut you off because I’ve got floating spots in my vision that weren’t there when I started driving but are suddenly there now and you lay on your horn and flip me off.
You’re right, I shouldn’t be driving but how can you be twenty-nine and living life and not driving.
So I drive and my vision blurs and I cut you off and you honk and I swerve.
And you don’t know I’m sick.

Nobody knows I’m sick when I stand up in front of the yoga class and call poses and breaths and drishti.
When I demo transitions and my joints scream at me even while I smile and pattern how to breathe evenly and stay in
Stay in
Stay in the fire just like I’m telling them all to do even though if any of them was feeling a fire like the grinding of bone on bone and the darkening of their vision I would tell them that is a fire they should stay out of because I’m only talking about muscle work here not the agony of small-dying
So I smile and I breathe and you practice and you follow and I lead.
And you don’t know I’m sick.

Nobody knows I’m sick when I greet them with a hug and invite them to tell me all about their lives, letting them talk and encouraging them with more questions every time they pause for breath and answering their questions with deflections.
How are you?
I’m happy to see you!
What’s up with you?
Oh you know, excited to hear what’s up with you!

We chat and you walk away none the wiser so later when I don’t make eye contact or leave early or miss an event or forget to reply to a text you’re hurt
Because you don’t know I’m sick.

Nobody knows I’m sick when I walk through the world on a good day without my cane, or that one time I had a whole good year and only two or three people knew I was sick and only one of them actually saw me be sick so when I collapsed in front of a dozen of them they didn’t know what to do.
Because nobody knows that I’m sick.
Unless I tell them.

And who wants to talk about that?

This is the push and the pull of the invisible illness
I want you to know
I don’t want you to know
I want you to know
I don’t want to tell you
I want you to know
But I am afraid of how much I will change, morphing and shrinking and twisting in your mind when I tell you that I’m broken
I am defective
I am weak
When I tell you I am sick
The lie of health is lonely, an island of isolation alone in a glass jar that you see right through but still can’t tell that it’s so much smaller on the inside than the outside
In your mind I can live strong and tall, functional and reliable
Healthy
And it might be a lie and it might tear us apart when the truth comes out and it might be a wall that prevents me two or three times over from ever making a meaningful connection
But at least in your mind
In this lie I let you believe
In your mind
I’m healthy
And it’s better to be healthy in a made-up dream world lie in your brain
Than to not be healthy at all

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Successful life with chronic illness in poetry and prose.

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Amanda Malone

Amanda Malone

Successful life with chronic illness in poetry and prose.

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