What Does Sick Look Like?

What does sick look like?

As the story goes with Anxiety and Depression, many of us are unable to leave the “comfort” of our own homes, much less peel ourselves out of bed. Much like many other diseases, you feel physically ill, often dizzy, fatigued, and experiencing physical pain of some sort. Mental illness, like cancer or the flu, are very real to the sufferers. The difference??? The key difference is, you cannot always tell who is suffering from some sort of mental illness.

Often, in the throes of my depressive episodes, I am unable to sit up due to fatigue, nausea, and dizziness. I am unable to focus and it takes incredible strength to simply sit up. On these days, I am bedridden, letting the world move around me, while I laid still in time. Recently, the day after an episode, I returned to work, operable, yet operating at about 60% of my normal performance. To make myself feel a part of the world, I posted a selfie to my social media accounts, with a caption that said I was not feeling well.

The responses? Well, the usual wonderful comments of “Nice Pic” and “Hope you feel better”. I love those.  However, one comment struck a nerve. A well-meaning friend stated, “You don’t look sick”. That comment alone struck me in ways I could never describe…. not in a million years. I felt a world wind of emotions. Did she not believe I was sick? Was she simply giving me a compliment? Are my feelings valid in the case? Is it my anxiety that is making me over think this situation?

I let the comment sit, unanswered…unaddressed.

That is, until I saw a video of a woman confronting someone with a handicapped sticker on the front of her vehicle. She was parked in a handicapped park. “You don’t look sick! You should be ashamed of yourself!” Her rant continued as the other person tried to avoid her rant and her camera. She kept screaming,” You don’t look handicapped!”

But, what does sick look like? How can you tell is someone is handicapped?


Sure, there are people who milk the system and pretend they are disabled or sick, but do those of us who have legitimate issue must constantly explain what our situations are? How is that fair to us?

I went back to my social media account and desperately wanted to reply to the infamous comment. I typed…and typed…. then I erased. Why am I trying to explain to anyone what I know to be true? Am I willing to offend a well-meaning friend for the sake of proving a point?

Needless to say, I said nothing.

However, there are a few things I want everyone to take from these experiences:

  1. A disability is legally a physical or mental impairment that causes disruption to major life functions and activities.
  2. Not everyone who has a handicap/disability uses a wheelchair or cannot walk.
  3. Sick does not always look sick. (If you are sick as much as I am, you learn to put on a “mask” and show the world what you think they want to see.)
  4. There are several illnesses that are considered “invisible disabilities”. These are illnesses and disabilities that you cannot predict by simply looking at the person. Some of them are:
    1. Cancer (You are not always able see the effects of cancer)
    2. Depression, Anxiety, and other mental illnesses
    3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
    4. Lupus
    5. Multiple Sclerosis
    6. Heart Conditions
  5. Think before you judge. What makes a simple person judge and jury in calling a stranger out on something they know nothing about?