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Got An “Invisible Illness?”

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“You Look Fine To Me!”

What is it like to live with an invisible illness?

It’s different from living with something that

everyone around you can plainly see.

If you break your leg and you’ve got a cast on,

that is at least a clue that you might be in some

pain, that your life is probably very different

than it used to be before the broken leg, and

that you might appreciate some sensitivity.

What’s Invisible?

An “invisible illness” is a disorder…

a medical condition or a mental health

disorder…that is not obvious to others.

Examples of invisible illnesses include 

Chronic pain, Chronic fatigue syndrome,

Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Interstitial Cystitis,

Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis,

Depression, and other mental health issues.

On a bad day, a person’s symptoms might be

noticeable, but on a good day, no one would

ever know the person suffers from a disorder

they have to manage every single day.

Some Similarities

Although different illnesses may have different

symptoms, almost all invisible illnesses include

the symptoms of pain, fatigue, problems with

sleep and appetite, sensory sensitivity, and

feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

In addition, most people with an invisible illness

have suffered from it for months to years before

being correctly diagnosed, due to others under-

estimating how sick they are and because the

person with the illness also thinks since they

“look okay” on the outside, they must be

exaggerating how bad they feel on the inside.

Why Don’t They Show It?

People with invisible illnesses often paste a

smile on their faces when they leave their homes,

so others won’t know they are in severe pain or

depressed or have only gotten 3 hours of sleep.

They have learned over time that when people

ask “How are you?”, they don’t really want to

know the answer if it isn’t “Fine!”

They may also be afraid of losing their jobs

and becoming a burden to friends and family.

They just put forth the best face they can.

How Can You Help?

No matter how many “bad days” you’ve had, if

you have never been diagnosed with severe

depression or chronic pain, you have no idea

what it is like to try to function everyday with it.

Save any advice or opinions you have, and

instead, ask if there is anything you can do to

help…and then ask again, and again, and again.

It’s the only way the person with the invisible

illness will begin to believe you really do mean it.

Then listen, and follow through.

It takes a village to remain functional when your

body or your mind decides to check out on you.

Try to be a helpful neighbor, not the village idiot.

What To Do If You Have One

If you are managing an invisible illness, the

first thing you need to do is learn everything

you can about your illness and join a support

group (online or in your community), so you

will know you are not alone in this experience.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to figure

out how to manage pain or depression…others

have been where you are and found ways out.

One of the best online sites to check out is

this one:  But You Don’t Look Sick.com.

You can manage an invisible illness with help.

You are not invisible, even if your suffering

sometimes is.

You deserve all the help that’s out there!


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