“But you don’t look sick?” What it’s like to have a chronic illness no one can see.

Thirty minutes ago I was catching up on the latest episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

On the show, one of the housewives, who of course isn’t actually a housewife, has Lyme disease. She’s had it for years now but in this season her symptoms have seemingly gotten worse. Of course like any reality show, they are shot months ago, so real life gets in the way of the season and a couple of weeks ago it was announced that she and her husband David are divorcing after four years of marriage.

When the news broke about their divorce, I have to say it affected me more than I thought it would. I mean, divorce is sad in a lot of ways, but these are two people that I’ve literally never met and have no connection with other than me watching them on TV once a week during season. But Yolanda is sick. She has a chronic illness. And of course, so do I. When I read story after story in the tabloids and celebrity blogs about their divorce I was looking for any sort of clue that would tell me whether or not this divorce was caused by tension due to her illness. I wanted so badly to find a sentence or even half a sentence that would give me the little sliver of hope I needed to convince myself that long-term relationships where chronic illnesses are involved aren’t doomed from the start. Of course I don’t actually believe that, but when I’m having a bad pain day, it certainly crosses my mind.

Most of this season of the show has focused on conversation around Yolanda and her illness. More specifically: how she acts with said illness.

As I was watching tonight’s episode, a scene at Lisa Vanderpump’s house with Lisa Rinna and Kyle Richard began to play. I was on Twitter catching up with the news when I realised what they were talking about. In so many words, some of the ladies introduced doubt surrounding Yolanda’s illnesses due to the fact that she had recently uploaded a picture of herself enjoying a vacation in Canada.

Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably saying “Oh hell no, they did not.”

Or, if you’re not like me, you might be saying “Are we still talking about a reality show?” But bear with me.

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It took me no less than seven years to get a proper diagnosis for my endometriosis. It took me traveling to MAYO CLINIC in Minnesota to be diagnosed with my vulvodynia and vaginismus. And it’s taken even longer to work up the courage to walk into a doctor’s office and demand to be taken seriously.

I am sick. I have chronic illnesses. I am in pain essentially every day. And guess what? I still live my life.

There have been many, many days in my life when my chronic pain has forced me to stay in bed. But there have also been many, many days in my life when it has not. And those are the days I choose to share with you.

a MacBook portrait of #endometriosis

A photo posted by Lara (@laraeparker) on

It is my prerogative to pick and choose what kind of image I project into the social media world. And I choose to project a happy one. It’s not for you or anyone else… it’s for me.

If I allow myself for one single second to wallow about the fact that I have to live with this for potentially the rest of my life, I will break. And I am not willing to do that. We all get one life (depending on what you believe, maybe I will come back as a snow leopard some day just like I’ve always wanted). But we get one life and I’ll be damned if I spend the entire time feeling sorry for myself.

This is why I choose to present myself on social media as a funny, lighthearted, and without a care in the world. Because the truth is, trying to remain sane and happy while dealing with constant physical pain is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. And I think about it all the freaking time. I don’t need to think about it when I’m on social media, too.

I choose what you see… and what you see is only half of me.

I live with an illness. I am not defined by it.

I don’t expect people without chronic illnesses or pain to understand what it’s like to live with it on a daily basis. Nor would I want them to know what it’s like.

Watch Yolanda talk about the struggle of battling an illness when you don’t look unwell. Post continues below. 

Video via Bravo

But I’ll leave any doubters with this…

You will never know what someone’s life is like until you walk a mile in their shoes. And quite frankly, most people wouldn’t make it ten feet in ours.

This post originally appeared on laraeparker.com and has been republished here with permission. You can find Lara on Twitter and find more of her work on BuzzFeed.

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