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My body is a “mask” covering up my symptoms and pain.

September 19, 2019

Caitlin is 17 and has been living with chronic health conditions including M.E./CFS for the last five years. She has produced a three part photography series which discusses the different aspects of life with chronic illness. This is part 3:


"These two last images of my final piece signify the fact that my body is the makeup or “mask” covering up my symptoms or pain on a daily basis. My body is the shell which covers my invisible illness as it all takes place on the inside. When people say “you don’t look ill” it makes you feel as though you have to prove to them or remind them that you ARE ill or that you are STILL ill. It’s as though you need to peel off that “mask” to show people that actually my illness and my pain and my symptoms are real and that they are all going on inside 24/7.

"I made this piece to show others how I wish they could just see what I and so so so many others are going through. Invisible illnesses are not fake just because you can’t see them. Society often doesn’t accept people when they have to dip out of things or mention their symptoms, illness or pain because they need help or a rest or break to just breathe before doing anything else.

"People see this as you complaining and just being annoying and a downer to everything. I’m sorry MY pain makes YOU uncomfortable? So we have to put on a “mask” of “I’m ok.” A mask of “I’m fine.” A mask of “I’m pushing through because otherwise I will sound like I’m complaining and they will get really annoyed but I’m in so much pain and not sure that I can take this for much longer.” This doesn’t mean we are fake or that our happiness is faked but it does mean our pain levels and symptoms are degraded by our own selves because people get uncomfortable.

"Yet if they would just accept that it’s not complaining but instead informing others that our body just needs some time out, then us with chronic illness can actually do so much more. We can be more social and more happy. If anything it educates others on how we need to just be ourselves. So for me peeling the “mask” off is something that has needed to be done for too long. I think everyone when they are ready should peel their “mask” off too and be unapologetic about it as well! It’s YOUR energy and YOUR life to live, so don’t waste it on pushing yourself so that OTHERS can have a more enjoyable life.

"So this piece is a reminder that under my “mask” all of my symptoms, pain and conditions still carry on behind the scenes even when I’m happy as can be and even when I’m having a “good day” or not using any mobility aids, they are still there and are still felt.

"By making all this visible and by explaining further I really do hope this has helped to educate you more and please if you have learnt something from this, share your knowledge with other people. Thank you very very much for reading this far. Please support any people, organisations and awareness making that you can regarding this topic as it truly does make a difference and will help to break the stigma around chronic illness."

If you would like to read part 1 you can find it here.

If you would like to read part 2 you can find it here..