Friday, September 28, 2012

"But you don't look sick..."

I honestly wish I could have a dollar for every time someone has said that to me within the last two years...I could probably pay off all of my medical bills by myself if that option was a possibility.

One of the most difficult things about GP is the explanation of what's wrong with you. First of all, people don't tend to think that stomachs can just stop working, and if they have any iota of an idea that stomach paralysis is possible, they don't realize how the hell that would affect a person's entire body, as well as mind.

Just because someone appears to be healthy doesn't mean they are. Personally, I try my best to look somewhat 'normal' whenever I go to the grocery store, 7-11, etc because I always feel as if people can tell that something medically isn't quite right with me, but don't want to ask. This may be because I have lost a significant amount of weight since starting to follow GP diet guidelines.

Or perhaps because lately, I carry around an aura of depression. Just one of unhealth, of general unwellness. but I digress.

The most common time I actually have to explain that I have GP is at the grocery store, go figure. Not having a job right now is helping in terms of lack of explanation to the general public, but there are some random people at various locales who ask about my hospital bracelet, skinniness, etc.

But, the grocery store is the most common place. This is because what appears to be a 17 year old girl is buying baby food in bulk at the self checkout.

I get one of two reactions at the grocery store--the judgmental "I can't believe I'm seeing a teen mom at my local Vons!" glares from people, and the look of general confusion-"why is this teenager buying baby food?"

First of all, I look very young for my age. I'm 24, and I still get carded for tobacco on a daily basis because apparently I don't look like I should have a driver's license. So I can imagine why it'd be weird to see me at the store, but still. Being on the side of the curious stares is not a pleasant experience and really expedites my grocery shopping

Usually, people don't comment. But more times than I've expected, either a random person in line or one of the checkstand people makes a comment. Some sort of "how's the kid?" begins the conversation, to which I always reply, "No kid, just a chronic illness."

This logically follows into a quick synopsis of what GP is and how it affects me on a daily basis, all before I can swipe my debit card.

I usually launch into some sort of a Wikipedia-esque discussion of what GP is and what it does to you. After I inevitably tell whatever person that I throw up at least once a day is when I receive the requisite "But you don't look sick!"

You have no idea how much I absolutely DESPISE hearing that. Instead of, "you don't look sick," why not, "Wow, congratulations on not disintegrating from starvation! Keep that weight up!"

Obviously that statement is completely idealistic and I'd never expect to hear it from anyone. But it is a daily battle trying to keep my weight to some semblance of normal and it is incredibly irritating to have to hear day after day that I don't look sick, so therefore I shouldn't act like it.

I always fantasize and play the 'what-if' game with these people--"Imagine if you had the flu every single day, but without the knowledge that you will feel better after a few days of hell," or "Try eating 200 calories a day for three days and then imagine how you'd feel about trying to go through a typical day in your life."

People in general don't understand that either. It's very frustrating. They know what it feels like to have the flu. They know what it feels like to be famished-but usually only after skipping one meal. Try skipping everything but your morning coffee everyday and you'll see how I feel like.

The conversation always ends with some sort of generalized "well, I hope you feel better!"

...thanks, random people at grocery store. It's a nice sentiment, but it really doesn't do anything for me, especially since I "look so healthy." Great!

I wish that, with even one person, that GP would sink in with them. People try to understand cancer, AIDS, other chronic illnesses, but GP is a relatively unknown one and some actual awareness beyond a five minute conversation would do wonders for GP research.

The point is, if you see someone buying baby food, don't judge, especially if they appear young. And if someone tells you they are sick, don't brush it off. Respect them, tell them you're sorry, and to keep your head up.

That's all people with GP need-a positive wish that our lives will improve. Think about it next time you're at the grocery store--4% of the population has idiopathic GP, and even more have diabetic related GP--there's a possibility someone there at your store is suffering.

Just tell us to keep being positive, because on good days, those words will hold. And on the bad days? They'll keep us going.

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