If you'd been in lectures with me today, you might have noticed my black skinny jeans, my adidas trainers, or my new favourite jumper. You may have spotted me fiddling with my necklace, running my fingers through my hair an annoying amount of times, or stifling a few too many yawns. If you had sat next to me you might have admired my freshly painted nails, my watch or my cute little rose ring. If you're an eagle-eyed make-up lover you'd possibly have complimented my bronzer or flawless eyebrows and you'd probably agree that my hair looked half-decent!
You might also have noticed (with a degree of annoyance) that I shifted in my seat quite a lot, although it probably wouldn't have crossed your mind that I was doing so because I was in intense, unrelenting pain. You'd probably assume that my yawning was due to typical student behaviour last night: partying too hard in town or cramming in the library. It wouldn't cross your mind that I'd actually been sat awake in bed for hours, shedding silent tears of frustration as my stomach gurgled away beyond my control, preventing me from sleeping. Concealer hides the ever-darkening circles that sit symmetrically below my eyes though, so that's alright.
You probably didn't pay any attention to the times I leant forward under my desk and rubbed at my aching knee joint. Some days it feels so inflamed and achey, but I can make it look like I've just got an itch that needs scratching, so that's alright.
After our lecture, we'd most likely make our way to get some food or head to a study spot. You probably wouldn't bat an eyelid at the effort it takes me to climb the stairs, clutching on to the handrail at every opportunity. I'm so fatigued at the moment that my body feels like it could give up at any moment, but I won't say anything - no point dampening the mood! And anyway, I'm alright.
We'd walk down the corridor and pass fellow students or staff members, who might make small talk, asking how we are. Like you, I'll reply "fine, thanks!" and we might all make a joke out of how tired or stressed we're feeling. That's just third year - we're all in the same boat. Of course, from what I can tell, you're stressing over whether you're going to have time for two nights out this week and still get the essay in on time. I'm anxious about whether I'll be able to work for long enough each day before my brain fogs over and whether I will be able to get any work done in hospital when I go in for my next infusion. But that's third year, right?! So much to do, so little time. We'll be alright.
If at the end of our busy day you happened to stumble across this blog post, you might feel pissed off with me for attention-seeking, or making out that my problems are bigger than yours. You might feel sorry for me, or think I'm over-reacting as I really did seem absolutely fine at uni today, like I always do. But I haven't written this to get any reaction from you. My problems aren't necessarily "bigger" than yours, they're just different. I'm pretty good at hiding them, which means that I can appreciate that you most likely have your own problems too, under the surface.
So let's just be nice to one another. Let's listen a little more carefully and pay a bit more attention when someone makes a seemingly insignificant comment about their situation. Because I'm sure most of us are suffering with an invisible illness in one way or another. Maybe we're not "alright".