Too Sick to Be Healthy, Yet Not Sick Enough to Be Sick

Kristiana Page avatar

by Kristiana Page |

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invisible illness


If I’ve learned one thing about living with an invisible illness, it’s that my life exists in limbo. Though I generally tend to feel good, I live knowing that in the last two years, I’ve never once felt as healthy as I did before diagnosis. I know that I’m not healthy because I can feel it, yet I’m not nearly “sick enough” by most people’s standards to be able to consider myself sick, either.

Our society tends to sort people into two main categories: “sick” and “healthy.” We seem to live by the misconception that only those who appear to be visibly unwell actually are. But in reality, millions of people are like me in the world, millions of us who don’t fit wholly within either of these classifications and are misunderstood because of it.

Although I’ve grown tired of my job in hospitality, one of the reasons I stay is due to the relationship and understanding I have with my current employers. Having worked in my current job as a waitress and barista for the better part of five years, my bosses have known me on both sides of my diagnosis. They understand that at times, fatigue definitely gets the better of me, and there’s every chance that I may call up one morning unable to work due to my illness. I dread having to build another relationship like that, as the fact that I’m sick isn’t at all obvious and is hard for some people to believe and understand.

Though no one has outright uttered the infamous “you don’t look sick” line to me, I’ve seen it plain on many faces. Take the lady at the pharmacy once when I was buying medication: Checking out what was about 10 or so boxes of tablets and pills, she asked if it was all for the same person, and when I replied it was mine, she really needn’t have said anything, as her face alone said it all.

The thing is that I’m aware that I don’t look sick. Two years ago, if I worked at a chemist and a seemingly fit and healthy, 20-something in gym gear checked out that amount of medication, I too would’ve been taken aback. But that’s exactly the problem. Before we know anyone on a personal level, we try to stuff them into so many different boxes using criteria like health, sexuality, gender, or even just lifestyle choices. Some of us just don’t fit, and may never fit.

It leaves me feeling a little conflicted, as I take so much pride in the time and effort that I consciously pour into my health, and yet doing so only leads to more misunderstanding about my condition.

When you see me in the gym it might look like I’m feeling strong and healthy, and that’s because I am right now. But you’ll have no idea how hard I had to work to be here. Maybe I don’t look sick, but I still spent nearly two years building myself up to be capable of doing the things most people take for granted, like getting up to work five days a week or making it through the day without napping.

I live my life in limbo, not healthy and yet somehow not properly sick either, constantly aspiring to achieve the everyday things that many of those who are “healthy” take for granted.


Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.


Christine M avatar

Christine M

Hello my dear;
I am always glad to hear another point of view.
It maybe is part of human DNA to judge others. I try not to; however I find myself doing just that occasionally. I have become very impatient with others well meaning evaluation of my illness and how i could better handle it. So, i do not get into those discussions.
I think the hardest judging situation involves a doctor. Someone who knows all of your various physical symptoms and meds and why you are taking them. Then he says too you something like " you already take too many meds". Who would want to take 11 pills a day if they didn't have to.
Thanks for letting us know we are not alone in our life with Lupus.
Best Wishes,

Kendra Sanders avatar

Kendra Sanders

I appreciate your story. I felt like I was reading about me and how I think most days. I felt like someone finally understood what I go though.

I do not even tell people that I have Lupus due to they not understand what that even means. It is just easier to tell people I am having a bad day when I am in pain or so exhausted I can not move.

People just do have that mind division -"healthy" or "sick". If you do not look sick then how can you be sick?

Cleopadera avatar


What I hear from male doctors, especially when wearing a mask covering my face, is I look too "good" to be sick. I took off my mask when one said this, and he saw my out-of-control rash, and was like, "Ohhhhh." I work hard at being as healthy as possible because I know Lupus will come back and knock me on the floor for up to three years. If a doctor starts the first visit in this manner, they are history. If it were not for women doctors, I would still be walking around with no diagnosis and people growing concerned and irate at me when my health implodes.


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