Welcome back! I want to talk about being invisible. As in, having an invisible illness, where you can look perfectly fine on the outside but the inside is a completely different story. The people who live with conditions with names like Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Migraines, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Autoimmune Disorders, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Depression and/or other Mental Disorders…and the list goes on.
When you have an invisible illness, it seems like you have to fight to have your illness be seen as “legitimate” compared to someone who uses a mobility aid like a wheelchair or a cane. Anything that physically shows you to have an incapacity makes it easier for others to show acceptance and tolerance of your limitations and abilities. When you look fine on the outside though, it’s just another battle to face. Heaven forbid you park in a handicap parking space, even if you have the appropriate placard. The looks and the confrontations for not being “disabled enough” are frightening and you have to have a strong backbone to put up with the comments you might receive (not easy when your backbone is covered in bone spurs!).
Does anyone remember the old story The Picture Of Dorian Gray? About the man who stayed perpetually young, while his painting grew older and older? I think about invisible illness in a similar way. A Picture of Dorian Pain – where everything on the outside stays the same, but your insides grow withered and ugly. It’s not pretty, but it’s the reality we all face. And yes, we ALL wish things were different.
It’s also hard to explain to people why you’re able to do certain things one day and then not be able to do them again the next day – or do much of anything the next day. It takes so much energy to push through Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Depression, etc. that a simple task today may render you too exhausted to do anything but move from bed to recliner the following day – that’s certainly the pattern in my life. Everything has to be planned out so carefully to make sure I’ll have the energy to do what needs to be done. Dealing with chores and household tasks are aggravating enough, never mind wanting to do something fun. Here’s a post I wrote on Facebook back in August of 2011 that really captured how I was feeling about that subject:
I know that many people have heard of the Spoon Theory by Christina Miserandino, but if you haven’t, I’m sharing it with you here. It’s an excellent example of how we invisible people must be so careful with our energy. We want to do so many things…we want to be like we were before, having fun with our family and friends, doing spur of the moment activities, just because we can. We may look like we’re capable of it on the outside, but unfortunately…the Invisible Us makes it all so difficult.
I know this sounds like a big bunch of complaining, but really, it’s just stating the facts of what people with Invisible Illnesses experience. It’s a chance to educate others who are quick to judge when they see us looking “fine” on the outside – to help understand what our insides are really like. We want to belong, we want to do things like before, we want to feel healthy and well and normal and good. Right now though…this is our reality. Please look beyond what you see. We’re still the same fabulous people we’ve always been, but we just have a new reality now.
Until next time, remember…there is always hope