You Don’t Look Sick, Can’t You Get Over It?

Many of us deal with an invisible illness (physical, emotional, mental), and/but we don’t look sick!

Typically, if we are out and about and even within our own family, if we see or know someone that looks outwardly ill or has a visible disability, hopefully we feel compassion, give them space, and help them, usually without thought or frustration.

Sometimes, out of pure surprise, when people find out I have PTSD, they say, “You don’t look sick.” I don’t take offense to it because it’s a natural thought. It’s not coming from a place of dismissal, or maliciousness. But, I do take offense when the next words of “Can’t you just get over it?” are said aloud.

I don’t know why, but there is something about those six little words that rub me wrong. I had a doctor say to me once, “You look fine. You survived. Can’t you just get over it?” Strange, coming from a physician’s mouth, and I’m smart enough to never go back to that person again. But, whoa, that stopped me in my tracks. I looked at her, and said, “Did you really just say that?”

When I’m triggered, I don’t freak out and run through the streets ranting, raving and screaming; but I do get out-of-sorts, can become kind of spacey, decisions become impossible and I’m sure I look shut-down and unhappy. Or, there are times I look shut-down and have that ridiculous, I’m okay smile plastered sweetly on my face.

When I’m out with friends it usually not a problem because they are aware of me and know my “tells,” but if I’m with people who don’t really know me, it can become uncomfortable for them. I don’t like feeling like the elephant in the room, so I will try to talk about it.

I recently had breakfast with my good friend. We have known each other for years. We were talking about how after my recent travel experience, I realized that my family and friends have created a “new normal” for me because of my many deficits. When someone wants to hang-out, they tend to say that they will pick me up. When we go to restaurants, we tend to go to the same place, so I don’t get overwhelmed with menu choices.

My boss will end a meeting if she sees my concentration waning. A 2-hour scheduled meeting may end after 15 minutes. My breakfast buddy was nodding her head in understanding because she has had two knee replacements in the past year and has had to make changes in her life because of physical challenges. We were getting ready to leave, and wincing, my friend said her body was sore from the weather changing. My tongue-in-cheek response, was, “Really, you don’t look sick!” We laughed and laughed because that’s how easy the thought and words can form when we don’t see someone’s challenges.

For many of us who have survived trauma (I expect it may be the same for people who have a chronic physical illness), we can be the master of minimizing our experiences, with our own tired, worn out mantra of, “I survived it, so what’s the big deal.”

I know I have questioned ad-nauseum to myself and my therapist, why can’t I just get over it? It’s tired and worn out because why would I just get over it? And if I could, I would have chosen that a long time ago. I wouldn’t ever expect someone else to just be okay, would I? No, absolutely not. A person feels the way they feel until they have processed and passed through all the transitions of healing. And if there are multiple events, it will take that much longer.

I can’t even imagine the depths of grief that still lingers inside of me. Part of the grief is sadness for the life I know I was never destined to have because my decisions were pre-determined for me for so many years. But, despite that, I chose to make a good life from my lied to, tattered soul.

Part of the grief is sadness for the life I had for the first 20 years, and for the pain, the suffering, and the squashing of my potential. But I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished despite what happened to me.

So, when others say to me, “Why can’t you just get over it? You survived and have a good life with a great family and lots of great friends and support.” I say, “Yes, I did survive because I stuffed all the feelings, emotions, abuse, terror and pain down as deep as they could go.”

The plan was never to resurrect any feeling or memory, but PTSD doesn’t work that way. I know I don’t look sick, and I probably will never get over it, but I have learned to live with PTSD.

Thankfully, I did survive, but just surviving doesn’t suit me any longer; living and thriving is my gold-standard now.

(Excerpt from the Book, If I Could Tell You How It Feels)


27 thoughts on “You Don’t Look Sick, Can’t You Get Over It?

  1. Trauma puts spiritual mirrors in the soul that aren’t us, but when we look at them, they look like us. The mirrors act like hooks, so that when we want to get past them, get out, and start over, they keep reminding us that this is who we are now.
    Medicine and psychology can’t necessarily go into where the mirrors are and remove them. Religion doesn’t necessarily work either. They usually exist in the form of lies that we tell ourselves about ourselves post trauma.
    The fix is to reevaluate who we really are in the Light of Truth instead of our conditioning. This is difficult, because we have to be honest with ourselves beyond what we see in the inner mirrors. But once revealed, extracted, and given to God, these have no power over us …at least that’s been my experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Im so glad we are in sync! Be gentle if Untangled is triggering. It has a happy ending…well I guess you know that since we are now connected to each other. 😉❤️
    Have a wonderful evening. I look forward to reading your post tomorrow my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great blog post! We are so in sync. I am posting a blog tomorrow entitled, “PTSD: Some People Simply Don’t Understand”, though yours is much more eloquent. I love the way you write. I am slowly reading your book, Untangled. It’s triggering, so I have to read it a little at a time. Still waiting for your new book to arrive!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That must have been so scary. And the result of chronic pain is awful. Its a terrible thing to have to live with, and yet you are. Im glad you can relate to the things I write. I love your sense of humor and the love you have for your wife and daughter. Those are the things that help us get through the darkness. You deserve all the best too my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I did get revenge on the 2 idiots at the therapy center. I have a really bad temper. One made the mistake of disrespect me and I raised up ready to body slam her. The other one I cursed out. Called her every foul name I could think of. If I could have gotten away with it I would have beaten them bloody. No regrets.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. dbest1ishere

    This is very well said….and I shook my head yes the entire time I was reading it. It’s so hard for people to understand because most of them don’t want to or don’t take the time to.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Its so unfair and so unfortunate that this happened in your life. So many have been traumatized by medical/hospital experiences. Its one of those things that isn’t spoken about very often. I have a friend who has suffered greatly at the hands of medical professionals and nothing happens to stop it! I wonder how to stop that from happening. People shouldn’t be traumatized on top of what brought them to the hospital to begin with. Its extremely maddening that this happens. Im so sorry!! I just want to hug you…so Im hugging you!! 🤗❤️


  8. I have to agree that hearing “just get over it” is more troublesome to me than “you don’t look sick”. Oddly, I haven’t heard the “you don’t look sick” much in my life. I have however, heard “get over it” most of my life. To me it sends the message that they don’t care, want to know, or hear about it. I’m glad to finally have a blog where I’m not required to be silent.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had no idea I was one of the first to follow you.

    Without going to deep into what happened, but five years ago I fell down a flight of stairs. Thankfully, I can still walk. But the pain in my back has been every moment of every day ever since the fall. So, I understand your posts so well. People talk and laugh with me and they forget I am in pain during every moment.

    Be well. You deserve all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks. I rarely say this but I hate, loathe and despise what the hospital did to me. Even retirement won’t fix the broken pieces. It’s sad that the government gives credentials and licenses to ruin innocent people lives. I’ll never forget or forgive them. Even when I retire I’ll still relive the nightmare every day for the rest of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank You Andrew. I feel the same about you. You were one of the first to follow me when I started blogging 2 years ago and I had no clue what I was doing or writing. Im just so glad you are feeling well enough to write again. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  12. That sounds like a terrible nightmare. Im so sorry you went through that, and it must feel so frustrating to know you sought help and would up more traumatized. Its maddening to hear you went through that, I can only imagine how that would feel. The system is extremely broken. I know you have unconditional love from Stephen and your Sylvester. Im glad you found a way to deal with the anxiety. Staying and home and sleeping sounds healing. I know you work so hard…retirement is near! ❤️


  13. I’ve often said, “I wish I looked as bad as I feel. Then perhaps, people would have compassion.” Should I be honest and say, “I feel like crap today,” I often get that, “Well, you sure don’t look bad.” Argh! I want to strangle the person, but instead, I smile and say, “Thanks.”
    The unseen illnesses, the one that hide in our souls, are as real as any that present themselves on the surface.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I wish that I had the support system and family life. As I’ve gotten older I suppress and withdraw.
    My two week hospital stay and therapy back in 2015 were a nightmare. I came out worse than I went in.
    As a result of the abuse by medical professionals I will never seek out therapy again.
    I keep my distance from people and trust no one. And I rarely discuss my feelings or emotions.
    After all I’ve been through I realize I must deal with the triggers, anxiety and panic attacks on my own.
    If I have sick time I stay home and sleep.
    No more fake phony mental health professionals. They do more harm than good.

    Liked by 1 person

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