Why Invisible Inks?
Did you ever play with “invisible ink” as a kid?
You remember the drill: Dunk a paintbrush or cotton swab into lemon juice or milk (baking soda and water if you felt fancy), then swipe your message onto a sheet of scrap paper. Give everything a chance to dry (assuming your childish impatience allowed), and present it to your best friend to decipher.
Then get in trouble when the smell of burning citrus or dairy wafted through the house as you held the page over a naked lightbulb for too long, squinting at the revealed letters. (Admit it - no parent in their right mind gave you matches)
The science experiment was your first taste of kitchen magic as a kid. And for at least a week or two, secret messages flitted back and forth. Then we moved on to the next childhood fad. (Usually, because we were tired of getting yelled at)
I never wanted to miss out on what my friends proclaimed popular, but I didn’t understand the allure of invisible ink. Even without the glaring heat of a light, you knew SOMETHING existed on those pages. The pale residue of the “ink” remained for those with keen eyes.
A subtle hint to peer closer, divine the message underneath.
And I think invisible illness behaves the same way.
Sure, the diagnoses earn the label due to people’s “normal” appearance on their exteriors. You can’t see the turmoil carrying on inside. Smooth skin, unblemished flesh, and intact hairlines disguise the complete malfunction existing within the body.
Or do they?
I know my friends and family read the cues in my eyes, gestures, and expressions when I’m experiencing a flare. They pick up on the strain in my words - even as I smile and proclaim, “I’m fine.” Despite an outward appearance of “all clear,” they see the DEFCON-1 inside.
And I know it’s the same for everyone with an invisible illness.
Even without bruises, wounds, or tears, caretakers recognize the walking train wreck you are.
As if you’re the soft hint of dried lemon juice on a piece of binder paper.
Which Shell Today?
And then there’s the other half of this newsletter.
The ocean runs through my blood. (No, seriously. My saltwater content is a good 30% higher than average)
When other girls learned to stretch out and tan, I crouched around tide pools hunting for hermit crabs. I was determined to catch one of the crustaceans trading homes. (Never happened)
It’s a fascinating process. But hermit crabs - the ACTUAL crab - are startling. Outside of a shell, you get a squishy, coiled creature; a poor, helpless animal scrambling for ANYTHING to hide in. Without the defense of the outer identity, most people would never even recognize the humble little critter. (Or want to - they’re super gross)
I’m determined to continue my life as always. I don’t want my friends and family (or ANYONE) to treat me differently. I can’t stand the thought of pity.
Not when so many others in this world are sicker.
So my life turns into a constant shuffling of shells. I fight to demonstrate health and abilities I don’t possess. And my collection keeps growing:
Mother (sure, they’re cats and a dog, but I earned that title)
Invisible illnesses take away strength, endurance, and sanity. And I attempt to disguise the INVISIBLE damage with a shiny new shell.
All of us with these diagnoses want our old lives back. So we dress up our (normal, “healthy”) outward appearances to deceive those who don’t know better.
And we get away with it.
At least, we THINK we do. (Throw enough glitter or confetti on those shells, and no one will notice the implosion inside, right?)
Counting Rings in a Shell
So what is Invisible Inks?
Metaphors within metaphors. Images within images. And reminders within reminders.
All spiraled in one place to offer contemplation for anyone attempting to balance the invisible with the visible. All while attempting to laugh at the humor of their situation.
So grab your shell and sit a spell.