Have you ever had a disease or a condition that you were scared or embarrassed to talk about, even to a medical professional, despite the hardship it caused you? Have you ever worried that you might be shunned or rejected for having it in the first place? Did the thought of being pitied hold you back from talking about it with a loved one? Then you have or had what is called a “whisper condition.” Whisper conditions may not be on the airwaves as much as, say, cancer, but they are real and cause real upheaval.
Whisper conditions include
Mental health issues like anxiety, personality disorders or depression
Skin allergies and conditions like eczema, rashes, psoriasis, etc.
Chronic gut disorders such as IBS, Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis
Digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation
Why is it so difficult for people to talk about whisper conditions?
Often people are completely blindsided by a serious diagnosis and need time to process what is happening to them before they can talk about it. They may be in plain denial. In other situations, the nature of the disease itself may carry a world of pain and embarrassment. Shy individuals generally find it challenging to come out of their shell, with or without the added burden of disease. The common reasons why it is so difficult for people to open up about a whisper condition include:
- Embarrassment: You may feel as if your body is acting up and your organs are ganging up on you to create a physical situation way too embarrassing to talk about. The thought of opening up about it makes you cringe. You feel what happens in the hospital should stay in the hospital, or buried forever, even from yourself.
- Fear of rejection, ridicule or pity: Opening up to someone about your illness is fraught with the risk that it may drive that person away from you. It may be too much for them to take, or they may not know what to do with that information. At worst, you may fear that it may put distance between you and them because you are now “different.”
- Sadness and depression: Illnesses, particularly chronic, debilitating or disfiguring ones, can make one feel perpetually down in the dumps. You may hesitate to share details because you worry that nobody wants to be around a sad person.
Banishing the stigma: support for individuals with whisper conditions
If you are suffering from a whisper condition:
Arm yourself with information about your condition and its treatment options from trusted and reliable sources to gain a measure of control over your illness. Gaining an understanding of what is happening makes it easier to explain your situation to friends and family, as well as have productive discussions with your medical caregivers. Your physician is an excellent source of information and can direct you to support groups outside of the clinic. Listening to the stories of others who share your condition can be quite enlightening and provide a new perspective.
If someone with a whisper condition opens up to you:
Be a good, calm listener. Do not express pity, but offer support if they need it. Participate in campaigns and boost content that is aimed at reducing stigma around whisper conditions. Be an ally. Together, we can banish the stigma and make everyday life easier for individuals with whisper conditions!