In the doctor’s office I recite this
litany of symptoms, a politician
repeating global warming statistics
he does not believe: Yes, I still feel dizzy
when I stand up, Yes, I still feel an ache
in my elbows and knees, Yes, I take a nap
on the couch in my office when my boss
is out for lunch and yes, yes, yes, my right
big toe is still numb. I try to wrap my
mouth around the word fine when the doctor
asks how I feel but I know my eyes plead fix me, like a splash of ink on his
prescription pad could give consolation
instead of another sleeping pill.
In honor of Invisible Illness Awareness Week (September 12-18, 2111), I wanted to post this poem, which I wrote more than five years ago, long before I had a name or diagnosis to describe what was wrong with me. I know my experience is not unusual, that many of us struggle with symptoms for years, dismissed as malingerers or head cases before we find a specialist or GP who recognizes our tangle of symptoms and can order the right tests to pull apart cause and effect. One of the hardest struggles of invisible illness is to convince people—friends, family members, employers, that jerk on the bus who gives you a nasty look for taking the seat reserved for seniors and people with disabilities—that we are, in fact, ill. Perhaps the hardest struggle is the initial pressing need to convince a medical professional that our symptoms are worthy of his or her care and concern.