A woman reaching in her purse to select a mask while someone waves at them from afar

The Invisible Illness Mask

There are so many things that we have to conceal from the world every single day.

Everyone is going through their own struggles, and in "polite society," we all must wear a mask. This isn’t something that is exclusive to people with an invisible illness, of course, but it does mean that many of us with an invisible illness like narcolepsy have to wear this "mask" on a near-permanent basis.

We rarely have the luxury of taking it off.

Feeling a constant pressure to be strong and positive

Living with an invisible illness like narcolepsy means that most of our symptoms are invisible to the naked eye, so to the world, we look "healthy." We appear "normal" to everyone else.

But that’s only because we have to appear "normal" in order to be accepted in society.

Society usually celebrates the underdog, but what this means for many of us with invisible illnesses is feeling a constant pressure to be strong and positive. We have to constantly prove to the world that we aren’t allowing our illness to define us or defeat us.

Therefore, sometimes we create a mask we show to the world. This can be exhausting.

What would life be like without the mask?

Having said all this, I also know that the invisible illness mask isn’t just for other people. Unfortunately, we sometimes even have to wear it for ourselves.

Despite the fact that we wish we didn’t have to wear this mask, perhaps we should consider what our lives would be like without it. What would happen if we didn’t wear this mask? How would our lives be if we externalized our true feelings every day?

As much as I hate to admit it, the invisible illness mask is sometimes a necessary burden we must bear in order to go on.

The problem is that because we wear this mask every day, people start to believe that the mask is actually our real face. This can be a problem, because then people could believe that we are actually "normal" and that we put on a "fake illness mask" to use at our convenience.

I hope this makes sense.

Do you wear an invisible illness mask?

In any case, this is what makes living with an invisible illness like narcolepsy so unbelievably hard. It’s the complexity of our lives. We need to blend in with society in order to survive, but we also need to be able to be ourselves. We need to be real, but we also have to be positive. We have to hide, but we also want to be seen. I don’t have the answer or any solution, but this has been something that has been on my mind for a long time.

I think that’s what I’ve come to learn over the past 5 years since my diagnosis. It’s that the real reason why life with narcolepsy is so hard is that it’s ultimately living in constant contradiction.

As much as I dislike having to live with this mask every day, I choose to believe that it’s a mask that helps me more than it hurts me. It helps me to be able to survive in the outside world, but it also protects me from myself at times.

What’s your opinion of the invisible illness mask?

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