Affecting more than 1 in one thousand people, Chiari Malformation is a disorder of the brain.
This is her experience:
If you saw me walking down the street, you would never know that there was anything wrong with me.
If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t see the 8 inch scar up the back of my neck and head. You wouldn’t know that through that 8 inch scar I had bones removed, I had parts of my brain touched and adjusted. That I had a piece of a cow heart sewn into the lining of my brain.
If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t know that the area around that 8 inch scar is in constant pain. You wouldn’t know that behind the smile is someone who wants to cry all the time. Who wants to lie in bed and wallow in pity for the pain that they’re carrying. You wouldn’t realize that when I tip my head side to side that I’m desperately looking for any movement, and little change that will reduce the pain I have. That even though I haven’t said anything to you, I am suffering badly.
If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t realize that my left hand doesn’t work well. You wouldn’t notice that when I carry a bag of groceries in my left hand that my pinky finger never even gets looped in the bag handle. Or that even though my ring finger might be looped, you could pull it out with the greatest of ease. It’s a dummy finger. It’s there for appearances, and that’s it.
If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t know that I have very little strength in my arms or my legs because last year I had to spend more than 2 weeks laying completely flat on a couch because spinal fluid kept pouring out into my back. And that just 2 weeks of strict bed-rest can result in a strength deficit that can take a year to regain under the best of conditions. You wouldn’t realize that if I was given a 15 pound dumbbell that I would only be able to do one bicep curl before having to quit. You wouldn’t realize that I am weaker than your 6 year old child.
If you saw me walking down the street, you wouldn’t know that my balance is very poor. You wouldn’t know that neon lights confuse my vision so much that I nearly fall over. You wouldn’t know that I can’t touch my finger to my nose when sober about half the time. You wouldn’t know that laying down at night makes me feel like my feet are going to flip over my head.
If you saw me walking down the street, you’d never know. My battles are quiet, my scars are hidden. But they are real. Just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t hurt, that I don’t struggle every single day. Just because I’m up and about doesn’t mean I’m not in pain, doesn’t mean that I’m faking my symptoms or exaggerating them. Just because I go on vacations and make it to my morning class most of the time doesn’t mean I am healthy or capable of doing everything you can.
If you saw me walking down the street you’d never know that I have permanent disabilities. That I have to fight to get the help I need because I look fine. You’d never know how much it adds to the hurt and frustration when people say that I look fine, or say that it can’t hurt that bad because I’m up doing x, y and z.
If you saw me walking down the street, you’d still have never walked a block in my shoes. You’d never have walked a block in my pain, in my dizziness, in my weakness, in my fears. You’d have just seen a girl who looks like you. A girl who wishes that her insides matched her outsides.
A girl who would give the world to be what you think she is.