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You can't see my illness - that doesn't mean it's not real

September 04, 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 1:

"These two images signify what I feel inside. I may look “normal” on the outside however I experience a constant cycle of symptoms caused by my chronic illnesses. By writing some of my conditions and symptoms on my face, it allows you to see my invisible illnesses on the outside. They are there all the time whether I look like I’m in pain or not. They are invisible. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that “it’s all in your head”. However it took me 4 years to be diagnosed with the main conditions that cause me pain.

"I can’t help but feel that if only my illnesses and symptoms were visible that maybe people and healthcare professionals would believe and understand what I and many others go through on a daily basis. It often sounds weird to people saying I wish you could see my illness because no one wants to look ill, but it’s the fact that people seem to stick by seeing is believing and treat you like your looking for attention because “you look normal” and not ill. This is why I decided to make my illnesses visible in a way because if they can’t be seen day to day then using photography as a medium is hopefully a good way to show and educate people.

"I decided to keep my pyjamas on , no makeup (other than the eyeliner for the writing) and my hair in its natural state as I wanted to show what I look like in a relaxed state and what I usually look like on a daily basis minus my conditions and symptoms being visible to others. I know that even if my illnesses were visible that I would still look “normal” as my conditions don’t necessarily impact the way I look , however I think that once people know that I have these illnesses it definitely helps when help is needed. However to the average person I pass day to day I don’t look ill or disabled so it’s hard for them to comprehend that I’m not faking it.

"By trying to educate people more on the topic of chronic illness hopefully more understanding can be made to help thousands of people that have chronic illness to live life a lot more freely and with a lot less pain or emotional pain.

Follow this link to read part 2.

Follow this link to read part 3.