Are Invisible Illnesses Really Invisible?

“But, you look great!”

“I heard about this diet that cures everything!

“You don’t look sick!” 

“You’re here today, so you must be getting better!”

“Think more positively!”

Invisible PainInvisible illnesses come in all forms… Autoimmune, musculoskeletal and neurological only top the list of invisible illnesses and diseases that people live with on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there’s not enough money for commercials with cute puppies and Clydesdale horses to be able to raise awareness about what an invisible illness truly entails, let alone a cure for it. Besides, the commercials that are already on television showing people smiling while they are taking their medications are total malarkey. They show people hiking, playing tennis, having fun. They don’t show that people are actually more concerned about the side effects of said medications (which for some reason, bigger, badder side effects including death can happen when taking some of these medications); and whether they are the lesser evil to the “possible” cure.

Sure, pharmaceutical companies are making billions of dollars on medications – but a cure?  Probably not in our lifetime… At least we’re consistently given hope that we are close to cures for everything under the sun though. But red tape and controversies make a mess of something that should be really simple – helping people get better.

So you might be asking; what is an “invisible illness”?  Well, like the term states, you can’t actually see the damage that an illness or disease is causing on a daily basis, hence the term “invisible”. Unless we actually tell you what is going on, you have no idea the amount of symptoms we are dealing with – and even then it doesn’t ever quite cover it. The damage is happening right in front of you though – and the pain is very real. Pray that you don’t have to see when we experience a sudden flare and need medical attention (get us to the hospital fast if you do… no stopping for soda refills, please).

An invisible illness can have some of the following on a daily basis:

  • Sharp, Stabbing, Dull, Achy, Electric, all over pain
  • Fatigue – Wears out easily performing simple tasks, or need for rest/sleep often; weakness
  • Memory Loss/Cognitive Issues
  • Depression
  • Vision/Hearing Disturbances
  • Balance/Mobility/Speech Issues – Some people may even appear drunk
  • Concentration/Decision Making Issues
  • Migraines and Severe Headaches
  • The lists goes on… GOOGLE it!

Have you ever had the flu? During the time you are sick every muscle hurts, your head hurts, you just want to slide under your covers and sleep until you feel better, right? Well, with a chronic illness we don’t ever get over our “flu”. If we’re really lucky though, we can go into a remission (it’s pretty rare, but it can happen); and that is a word that everyone with a chronic illness longs to hear.

Because our “flu” basically lasts forever, we need more time to get simple tasks done (if we’re lucky to be able to do them at all that day), or we might even need someone to take over those tasks for us once in awhile because we’re not able to do them. People living with a chronic illness constantly needs to take into consideration whether we’re capable of doing a simple task, and even how much pain and energy it’s going to take to get it done.

A lady named Christine Miserandino wrote a story about how she explained what it was like for her living with Lupus. In her story, The Spoon Theory, she explains to her best friend what a day is like by handing her a stack of spoons at a restaurant. She eventually starts taking them away one by one after performing the simplest of tasks like brushing her teeth and combing her hair. It wasn’t long before her friend was coveting her spoons, and ended up with a fairly good idea what it was like to live with a chronic illness. People all over the world now embrace the term “Spoonie”, almost as if we’re in some sort of club or something just because we’re chronically ill.

As poorly as some (healthy people) think we may be doing, we all want you to know that we are still the same person we were before we got sick… It’s not easy for us to admit that we can’t do everything that we used to be able to anymore; and it’s even harder to accept that this is our new reality; but the one thing we all strive to hold on to is the person who we were before we got sick.

So, if you know someone that has been diagnosed with a chronic illness, or someone that is still fighting for a diagnosis, know that since we are with you today means that we are trying really hard to show you how much we care (even if it’s happening only via social media – because for some of us, that’s the only way we are able to communicate). Even more so, know that if we managed to spend some quality time together or even go out to an event, it took every “spoon” we had to do it… We may not have as many available tomorrow (if we didn’t already borrow some from the day before), but it’s worth all of our spoons to spend our time with you today.

After hearing what I had to say, you tell me…  Is an illness really invisible or not?

One thought on “Are Invisible Illnesses Really Invisible?

  1. I can relate to most of the symptoms in your invisible illness list, excepting depression and headaches.

    I fully agree that the actions of well-intended friend or family can be most annoying. My particular bugbear is the one uoy start your post with – “My, you’re looking well today.”

    My response is usually, “Try looking at it from this side.”

    Liked by 1 person

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