When You’re “Not Sick Enough”

Exhaustion washes over me as if I were submerged in a lukewarm bath. It isn’t comfortable, but I’ve been sitting here so long I’m not sure what it would feel like to step out of the metaphorical tub.

I cancel plans with my friends too often for them to believe it’s just bad timing. I don’t lie when I tell them I’m too sick to see them. I do lie when I tell them it’s the flu, or food poisoning. Vomit is easy to understand, and easier to avoid. No one tries to convince me I should just come along anyway.

I go to work and greet those that enter the store, hopeful they will be too self-involved to reply. I can’t find the energy to have a conversation about trivial things. I can’t find the energy to talk about anything real, either. I slink to the back corner of the store and straighten some boxes. I come off as busy, rather than unwelcoming.

I have been sick for years. But I have never been sick enough.

I have never been sick enough for a doctor to diagnose, sick enough for my blood work to come back with clear issues, sick enough for the slew of medical tests to come back with anything other than normal. My body is physically functional, it seems, in all respects. I am tired, and sore, and generally unwell. My condition is unyielding, but also unchanged. I am in no “immediate danger”, and so, I am left wondering what it is that I am.

It’s a confusing place to be. I have found that without a diagnosis, I often sacrifice my health for the benefit of others. While I am constantly exhausted, I myself sometimes believe that I am not sick enough to stop. Not sick enough to stop working part time, so I can focus on university. Not sick enough to cancel plans, and be a disappointment again.

I am confined to bed for two days after an eight hour shift because a “good night’s sleep” doesn’t take away the feeling of being completely run down.

I have panic attacks if I am surrounded by people for hours because I am too exhausted to interact properly.

It’s hard to hear that you aren’t sick enough from doctors who have spent their lives encountering all types of illnesses. It’s hard to understand how your body can feel so broken and show no signs of it. It plays with your mind.

You start hoping that blood tests will come back with glaring issues, so there’s proof you weren’t faking.

You start to wonder if you just got a little bit sicker, would the doctors suddenly be able to identify your illness?

Sometimes you allow yourself to hope beyond diagnosis — you hope for a cure.

No one wishes to be sick, but those who are sick always wish to get better.

Unfortunately, there are some chronic conditions which can’t be recovered from. Symptoms can be helped, but the underlying issue may never subside. As someone whose condition has yet to be diagnosed, I feel that a diagnosis in and of itself would help immensely. Knowing what’s wrong opens the door to learning how to manage it. Knowing what’s wrong proves that there really was something wrong. Validation of my illness, at least in my personal case, will be a huge step towards healing.

My illness is not my excuse, but my meter stick to measure against when I need to evaluate what I’m capable of on bad days.

Even for those of us who are “not sick enough”, it’s important to realize that every illness takes time to heal. Fight for your health.