Invisible illness

By Emily Maybanks


Phil stood outside the entrance to his flat having just returned from work. He was tired and ready for a cup of tea, but the shadow and sobs of a young woman on the wall opposite the building caught his attention. He recognised her as one of his regular passengers on the bus. She used to seem like a happy person, determined to do well but more recently she looked more and more tired and miserable. He was genuinely concerned about her but had never been able to pluck up the courage to talk to her fearing that he’d upset her even more. Now, he knew that he couldn’t leave her crying her eyes out on the wall. Cautiously, nervously, he approached her. Her face was buried in her hands and she was shaking uncontrollably, wearing a summer dress and sandals. She did not look up until he sat down beside her. She jumped when he gently touched her trembling shoulder. Tears were streaming from her hazel eyes.


“Are you alright, lovely?” Phil asked in what he hoped was a concerned voice. He felt relieved when she wiped her eyes but shook her head. He wanted to be there for her but was unsure about whether to push too much.

“If you want to talk about anything, I can promise you that it won’t go any further than me,” She seemed to hesitate slightly, looking Phil straight in the eye; Phil did not drop his gaze and smiled encouragingly, sympathetically.

“I’ve been diagnosed with hypothyroidism today,” She spoke in a cracked voice, “And while I’ve been expecting it, it’s shocked me,” Phil panicked slightly. What is hypothyroidism? He thought. She must have read his expression because she continued by explaining what it was,

“It’s a chronic illness. It’s where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. The symptoms include weight gain, tiredness and exhaustion, muscle aches, depression. I’ve had all these symptoms for a while and I’ve been having blood tests every month for a while now.”

“Can they treat it?” Phil asked, feeling very sorry for her, “Sorry to ask, but I don’t know anything about this condition.”

“It’s fine,” She replied, “I appreciate you coming to talk to me. I have to take tablets called levothyroxine every day for the rest of my life,”

“The rest of your life?” Phil asked, feeling shocked.

“I guess it’s not that bad,” She sighed, “It’s just a bit of a shock to actually know that I have this condition,”

“I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like,” Phil replied, “It makes me appreciate my life a bit more now. I’m Phil by the way,”

“I’m Em,”

“Pleasure to meet you Em,” Phil grinned, “If it’s a comfort to you, if you ever want to talk, or moan, or cry, then you can talk to me,” He hoped that that would not put her off and he was relieved when she gave him a quick hug. It was nice to feel needed.


“I feel like no one understands,” Em spoke, tearful again, “I have days where the biggest effort is getting out of bed because I feel so tired and I know I’m perceived as lazy but I’m not lazy, honestly, I am trying so hard to overcome this but I feel hopeless,”

“You’re not hopeless,” Phil said, shocked that she could think that about herself, “You’re a lovely young lady who’s been through a lot and you are so strong and a huge inspiration,”

“I’ve got a health condition which no one can see, I feel devastated but I feel guilty because there are people who are worse off than me,” Phil sighed, he didn’t what he’d expected really, he knew that he couldn’t change Em’s feelings just like that but at that moment, he vowed be a good friend to her to himself never to let her down.


“I feel so alone and so guilty. I could get worse conditions from hypothyroidism, I could become infertile,” Em burst into a fresh wave of sobs. Tears stung Phil’s eyes and he hugged her because he didn’t think that any words could comfort her right now.

“Em,” Phil said, determinedly, silent tears rolling down his cheeks, “I promise you right now that you are going to get through this, and I am not going to let you down. I promise. We’re going to start by you coming with me and I’m going to make you dinner and you’re going to get a good night’s sleep, and tomorrow, I’m going to take you to the doctors because they’ll be able to advise you better than I can, but I’ll be there, I promise,” Phil wiped his eyes, stood up and helped Em into his flat, determined and ready to be the friend she needed to help her come to terms with being diagnosed with hypothyroidism.


About the author:

Emily Maybanks has been writing since she can remember, but has only recently started having work published. She is currently studying Translation with French and Italian at University, and enjoys making use of dictionaries when writing in a foreign language. Emily is inspired by the little things when writing, and loves people watching and imagining what they might be thinking. She is a brown belt in karate.

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