If they catch me in the bathroom at work, I might give away a little piece of my Sjögren’s secret.

“Oh, no…” they say. “Did your contact fall out?”

I’m scrubbing away at the white film that builds up on the bottom half of my contacts, so I can’t really see them as they are staring at me through the mirror. I put my head down and focus on scrubbing. I know they are staring, but it’s all such a blur.

“No…I…” I debate how to handle this. I debate how much to reveal. I debate how to say it. “I…I just have a problem.”

I have a problem? Why did I say that? My one opportunity and all I blurt out is I have a problem?

“Hmm…” they say as they pretend to focus on washing their hands. They scurry out as quick as they can. I just keep scrubbing.

Well, one failure, but don’t worry, champ…you’ll get ’em tomorrow.

“Oh, no…” they say. “Having trouble with your contacts?”

The same routine. Every day. But usually a new person catches me in the act.

They mean well. Small bathroom talk to be friendly towards a co-worker.

“No…I…” Here’s my chance. Just say it. Just say something. “I…have an autoimmune disorder.” Well, that will get their attention. They suddenly are grabbing way too many paper towels and just keep grabbing for them as they turn to face me. They just keep wiping their hands dry, again and again. Their hands are definitely dry by now, but they feel like they have to stay. Who has the heart to walk away after that?

“My eyes just get really dry, so sometimes I can’t see that well because I get this white stuff on my contacts. It’s worse when I’m tired or stressed.”

I guess that’s enough to reveal. They don’t really understand Sjögren’s. They can’t really get it. How could they?

They smile. Sometimes they say they’re sorry, or they look sad or even just confused. One simple bathroom small-talk moment suddenly is a lot more than they expected. 

They smile and walk away. I just keep scrubbing. Scrubbing and scrubbing so that life isn’t hiding behind such a fog.

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