Letters to the Editor (04/14/2012)

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Please don’t jump to conclusions
Editor:
I want to make a T-shirt that says, “But You Don’t Look Sick!” Not so much to draw attention to myself or garner sympathy or, by any means, to be obnoxious, but to perhaps make people think a little more about invisible illnesses. There is so much ignorance out there about what it means to be chronically ill, especially the fact that the ill one doesn’t necessarily show obvious symptoms.
I walk with a cane, at times wear a variety of braces, and park in handicapped, even though I know many eyes may be watching and many minds may be thinking — what is she doing in a handicapped space? But I don’t think twice about it — these things help me do what I need to do and have become simply a normal part of my lifestyle.
I’ve been coping for so many years with my illnesses that I mostly forget about what others may be thinking about me. I don’t owe anyone explanations about why I do what I do or how I do it. It is very painful, however, to know that my invisible illnesses give others an excuse to judge me, make assumptions about me, decide who I am before they even meet me.
But I also only go out when I feel I can handle the challenge of being out in the real world, where anything can happen, and often does. I try not to have expectations about how my outing will go — it’s always possible that I won’t even make it out of the house let alone the driveway and into town. Disappointment can devastate me so I try very hard to not expect anything and to accept whatever comes my way.
I rarely leave the house, but I don’t think folks notice that. They only notice that when I’m out in public, getting things done, acting upbeat, talking, laughing — that I don’t appear ill at all. I’m not sure it crosses their minds that when I get home I am alone and left to take care of myself, my home, my chores by myself. I am sure they don’t realize that I’m lucky to even make it home in one piece, that I may arrive home in tears from pain or the shear emotional toll it takes to accomplish my tasks, or that yes, I made it home, but I may not be able to unload the car or carry things beyond the inside of my front door or that I may have to go to bed for the rest of the day and possibly the day or days after that. I’m not sure they consider that I really need help to get through each day and that I don’t have any.
Yes, it’s easier for others to not think about such things. But I don’t blame them — I don’t want to judge them for how they cope.
And the older I get the more I realize that I’m not the only one out there suffering. Everyone suffers to whatever extent, everyone hides something when they walk out the door, everyone keeps secrets about their lives.  When I talk to folks I am often amazed to learn what others are also coping with; it’s not just me. Thousands of us have invisible illnesses or know other people who do. It’s when we share with others parts of our lives that they can’t see that we realize just how much we may have in common.
But I still want a T-shirt that says, “But You Don’t Look Sick!”, because there are thousands who also feel very comfortable with their judgments and assumptions and their amazing capacity for ignorance. Those are the people I’d like to challenge, if only a little bit, to think before they jump to their conclusions.
Kate James, Socorro

Sign in village not very welcoming
Dear Editor,
My wife and I moved to Magdalena, in part because we found it to be a pleasant place with friendly people.
The ups and downs of the Magdalena business scene are of great importance to us as we want the village to continue to be a pleasant place. Tourism is certainly a significant part of the local economy. However, I recently noticed a hyperbolic signboard with an extreme political message near U.S. 60 and in town. I cannot imagine this encourages travelers to stop. It is more likely to be seen as a little weird and off putting.
I don’t know who put the sign up and in a face to face conversation I would likely find them as pleasant as the rest of the community. I hope the Chamber of Commerce or other friends have some influence with the owner of the signboard and encourage a less hostile message. It would only help our town.
John Wilson, Magdalena