Fly the Freak Flag

403750_337377096293248_2053724939_nSometimes in life, and certainly with chronic illness, we all feel like freaks at one point or another. I’ve had plenty of occasions where freakishness has felt like my sole identity. Since autoimmune disease is often an “invisible” illness, those of us who have them often have to suffer from our freakishness in silence. We’d rather try and appear normal to avoid being an outcast. I have significant hearing loss, due to Meniere’s disease, which makes me often feel like the odd man out. I’m constantly missing pieces of conversations, or having those awkward misunderstandings, (shouting over background music, “what?! why didn’t you tell me you had cancer?”, “oh, NO, I said ‘I AM a cancer!”…). Luckily, my preferred method of self-protection has always been in the form of humor, there’s nothing a good laugh can’t fix. I once showed a doctor a mysterious rash I was trying to identify. I raised my arm and hoisted the lunchlady part of my arm up high so he could see it. He looked at it and said “hmmm, I’ve never seen anything like that before”. I was instantly humiliated, of course the doc wasn’t going to win any prizes for his bedside manner, but I felt the red rash may as well have spelled out “freak” across my skin. It felt official, I was now wearing my weirdness for all the world to see, nothing invisible here. As the doc went to wash his hands after touching my apparent “cooties”, my frustration started to percolate deep down and I began to imagine that I had a super-hero onesie on under my paper-thin hospital gown. I envisioned ripping off the gown (although a light tug would have done the trick), to reveal a (flattering) neon green body suit with a big F on the front. Perhaps even a cool flag of some sort would be embossed on the shoulder. I decided then and there that I would hold my head high and raise my freak flag for the world to see. I was incognito no more. It was a liberating feeling, rash and all to hold my chin up and know that surely there were other “freaks” just like me out there. We all go through times when we feel misunderstood and even freakish, especially if we are dealing with something like an “invisible” (or not) chronic illness. I say fly your freak flag high for the world to see, you might just bump into a fellow flag bearer in the process.