I realised something quite profound the other day.
My life since the age of 13 or so has been divided neatly in half by two very different medical problems.
And not only that, one was visible (far, far too visible) and one is by and large invisible, to most people anyway.
And it is this issue of ‘visibility’ that makes me stop and think, and one which links both problems.
For over 20 years, I had incredibly bad acne. To many people, this might be a case of, ‘so what?’ But believe me when I tell you I went through absolute hell. It was difficult enough enduring it throughout school (you can only imagine), but for it to continue well into my 30’s was horrific and dominated my life entirely.
I would go to bed every night for two decades, praying I would wake up with clear skin. Very few people ever saw me without thick make-up (I tried all the foundations under the sun), but none of them could ever disguise the angry skin flaring up underneath. The more I tried, the more I failed.
I simply can’t begin to explain how my skin affected my life. My face was the first thing people saw and every time someone looked at me, a little piece of me died inside. I knew exactly what they saw, and I felt humiliated and ashamed.
And then, just as my skin cleared up, MS hit.
I wonder whether it is my experiences of hiding away, saying no to so many things (so many regrets) and generally shunning the best that life can offer that has made me so vocal about living with MS.
This time, I refuse to hide. It’s tempting, very tempting. In light of the DWP debacle, part of me is seduced by the idea of doing what they ask, shutting my front door and retiring politely from public view. And I remember exactly how that feels, from years and years of experience.
But I won’t hide and now I have the reverse problem – having to work endlessly to prove to people that I actually have a medical issue. It’s quite bizarre.
Ultimately, what can I learn from this? Am I trying to overturn my ‘mistakes’ from before? If I am, bring it on! Perhaps if social media and blogging had been around ‘back in the day’, I would have evolved into a proud ‘reclaim acne’ teenage blogger.
As it stands, visibility and medical symptoms have been the enduring story of my life. Isn’t it time we reclaimed all health issues as just that – if you’ve got an issue with it, jog on?