To be honest, this chatty chick had a hard time thinking of what to write this month. I know! Crazy, right? After thinking about it for a bit, I realized I wanted to talk about something that has a huge impact on my life and many other people’s lives…Invisible Illnesses!
For those who don’t know, invisible illnesses, diseases and disabilities are those that you can’t obviously see on the outside. When we see someone with missing limbs, a wheelchair, a cane or any other physical handicap we are seeing part of their illness/disease/disability. When you have an invisible illness, disease or disability, you look able bodied as if you were totally fine…except you’re not!
I remember in 2001 when I was in college, I had some health issues but started getting migraines and anxiety for the first time in my life. People around me thought I was “faking it” or just making excuses for not wanting to do things. What 19 year old wants to sit at home on a Friday or Saturday night, or not go to classes and see their friends?? Why would someone make up stories about being in extraordinary pain and feeling out of control??
Fast forward to almost 40 and I have now been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (which I’ve definitely had for much, much longer but have always been dismissed due to my age). Since my college days I’ve had multiple surgeries to deal with other invisible health issues (fibroids…which have ultimately caused me to be unable to have children), but I have worked very hard on completely changing the way I eat, sleep, work and live my life to try to accommodate my invisible illnesses. Sometimes these things feel like they help a lot and other times it feels like they don’t help at all.
Some days I feel good. Certain times of the year are better than others (warmer weather is better than cold for example). I am able to get through my day with minimal issues besides feeling achy and tired. Then there are days where I feel like I was hit by a truck and I can’t move out of bed or off my couch. Just this past week I went from being totally fine one day to being almost non functioning the next, all because I was up half the night dealing with “painsomnia” (insomnia due to pain) and anxiety.
I know far too many people who deal with invisible illnesses, diseases and disabilities. My mother, my brother in law, and many friends have things like Multiple Sclerosis, Raynaud’s Syndrome, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Migraines, Cystic Fibrosis, Depression, Anxiety and many other autoimmune or mental illnesses, diseases and disabilities.
These are not things you can easily see or see at all. It can be very frustrating at times, especially when people give you a hard time, don’t believe you actually feel what you say you feel, or tell you to just “be strong” and “keep pushing through”. While they mean well, sometimes it doesn’t feel encouraging…especially when you are really struggling. I know for me I feel like my feelings aren’t valid if I’m told these things during a flare up. The best thing to do for us during that time is to be supportive and offer up help for whatever your friend or loved one is needing during that time.
Listen…we ARE STRONG and we literally push through symptoms every single day of our lives! Strength is not the issue, perseverance is not the issue…we are just TIRED!! Just like people with visible illnesses, diseases and disabilities, we work harder than able bodied individuals to do daily “simple” tasks.
Maybe a night of bad sleep would just mean an extra 5 minutes to snooze and an extra cup of coffee for some, but for others it means days of recovery. Eating the wrong food might make some feel a little guilty, but for others it means they won’t be able to leave their house the next day. Doing a hard workout may make someone feel a little sore, but for others it causes a flare up of symptoms and they can’t even get out of bed after.
Invisible illnesses, diseases and disabilities may be invisible to those without them, but to those of us who live with them every day…they are NOT so invisible. We see them in our swollen faces, ostomy bags, tired, dry eyes, blue fingers and rosey cheeks! We feel them when we are having hot flashes, constant body pain, a hard time breathing or a panic attack. We see them in our faces when we look in the mirror every single day. As I’m sitting here writing this post, my neck is stiffening, my back is screaming and I am tired and dizzy…but guess what?? I’m still writing!!
As difficult as having an invisible illness, disease and disability is…I am HONORED to be part of a community of people whose strength could literally move mountains!
WE are NOT invisible…and we will NEVER GIVE UP!!