I am not ashamed of my illness

I usually have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, and a hesitant thought in the back of my mind when I'm meeting someone new. "Maybe I shouldn't tell them that I'm sick."

Now anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that I am chronically ill with an autoimmune illness called Lupus. I've only got properly diagnosed a year and a half ago, after suffering from several symptoms for two months. (This however is still considered a quick diagnosis.)

I've come to realise that telling people that I'm sick makes them very uncomfortable, they either don't like the fact that they don't know anything about it, the fact that I don't look sick according to their standards, or they just simple don't know what to do with me after the fact. I understand their point of view, first of I was very uneducated in the topic of chronic illnesses before I became sick - because why should I know? I had been completely healthy my entire life and didn't see that changing at any point. But it did, I will never be 100% healthy again. (That statement apparently makes everyone but me uncomfortable..) I have come to accept this, and I am not ashamed of this fact, I just have to learn to live with it. 

It's an ongoing process, I have yet to actually 100% come to terms with this fact. I still fight a battle every day about what I can and can't do with my body. I have learned to listen to it better, but I'm a very stubborn person. I don't like to give up. A perfect example of this was a moment during my three weeks in hospital the summer of 2015. I had just gotten accepted to the photography school I am currently attending, I had fixed everything with accommodation and student finances before I got admitted to the hospital. Two weeks or so in to my stay and my father suggests we put off school for a year, as I would need time to heal and process the whole "sick for life" thing. I told him in no uncertain terms that if we did that then I would most certainly die in that hospital bed, for I would have nothing to look forward to and fight for. So, we didn't. I went to school just a month after my release and finished my chemo while starting my studies. It was the best decision I ever made.

But since i got out of hospital I've obviously have had to tell a lot of people that I'm sick. The school, my peers, when I applied for internships etc. It's a hard thing to do, because this is where that uneasy feeling and hesitant thought come in to play, what if they don't accept me based solely on the fact that I'm sick? I've found that it's quite a hard subject to broach because nobody ever asks you if you're sick, because most people don't realise you could be. My mother had to make the call to my school as I was too uneasy about it since it was so new, I then got telling my classmates about it out of the way when we had to present a self portrait on the first day of school and tell the class something about yourself.

Then came the internship interviews, and man was that hard. Because I am obviously weaker than my classmates, as my body continuously works against me every second of the day, and as a photography intern you have to do a lot of carrying. I feel very nervous every single time I tell someone about this, especially if something big is at stake. Say, an internship, a job or a relationship. I have yet to actually get so close to somebody to want to tell them about my illness but I would imagine that it will be hard as well.

Currently the time has come to start applying for assistant jobs and I'm not quite sure how to tell people about this, yet again. But I've decided that I am not going to be made into feeling ashamed or less for being ill. I am exactly as capable as anyone else to pursue this dream of mine, illness or not. I might have to fight harder, but just as capable nonetheless. I am tired of feeling like I can't talk about this, to people or on here - because people might view you as less. Well I am not, if anything I am more. I have had to fight my ass off to even be able to live, let alone pursue my biggest dream.

I don't want to have to hide such a big part of me just to be accepted, so I won't. From this day on I will be completely honest about that part of my life, because it affects every aspect of it. If you want me, want all of me. I will not be hiding my illness from anybody, and if you have a problem with that then well, fuck off.

Not taking anyone's shit, or giving a fuck, in hospital featuring my most flattering angles.
Photo 1, 2, 6, 8 & 9 courtesy of my mother.