What is an Invisible Illness anyway ?
Have you ever seen someone park in a handicap spot and look perfectly healthy as they step out of the car?
You wonder, wow how can they park there they don’t have a wheelchair or look ill.
“They’re not disabled, they seem like they can walk just fine!
They must have that handicap card illegally.” What most don’t stop to think is that perhaps this individual may have an invisible disease.
A disease that causes a brief walk across the parking lot to feel like the equivalent of walking the length of a 2 football fields while the entire time their body is hurting and in pain.
According to one study, more than 125 million Americans have at least one chronic condition (defined as a condition that lasts a year or longer, limits activity and may require ongoing care) and nearly half of those have more than one.
These chronic illnesses often share one major characteristic: they are not visible to the average on looker
So then came the term “invisible illness.”
Some examples of invisible illnesses are:
• Avascular Necrosis
• Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Meningioma Tumors
• Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
• Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain
• Depression and Mental Illness
• Diabetes and other Blood Sugar Issues
• Digestive Disorders (such as; IBS, colitis, Celiac, etc.)
• Headaches, Migraines, etc.
• Heart Conditions
• Lyme Disease
• Multiple Sclerosis
• Neurological Diseases
• Sjogren’s Syndrome
Just to name a few
Those with invisible disabilities can present with varying symptoms such as debilitating pain, bone and joint pain-fatigue, dizziness, weakness, learning differences and mental disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments cognitive dis function.
Most of these chronic invisible conditions are not always obvious to an observer, but can sometimes or often limit daily activities.
These disabling symptoms can range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.
Having an invisible illness can prohibit the sufferer from enjoying life in the way they once knew.
Often people with an invisible disease feel ashamed to have a handicapped plaque because they are afraid of being judged.
Unfortunately, we all to often judge others by what we see, concluding that they are either capable or incapable based on the way they look.
It may, therefore, be difficult to understand someone who “looks” fine, but acts incapable.
All too often judgments are made that the patient cannot be ill, because they do not look sick.
The life of an invisible illness sufferer is often faced with judgement by strangers family and friends.
People get downgraded as to why they are often absent from the job or even tardy, why they no longer call or are available for social activities with friends and family ,why they often seems short tempered, withdrawn or depressed, or why they lay in bed or the sofa so often.
The invisible illness sufferer is often labeled as lazy while disease wreaks havoc inside their body.
When trying to explain their disability, sufferers are frequently met with the response, “but you look great” This is, perhaps, one of the most frustrating things to hear for those who suffer with these invisible illnesses.
Unsolicited advice on how to get better only adds to the exasperation. A nap not help or a bath or yoga.
Understanding Invisible Illness
For those that are fortunate to live without an invisible illness, it’s difficult to understand, relate.
But we all have had the flu, minor aches and pains, maybe we have even been a tad depressed for a few days, right?
Our options to fix our illness might include taking anti-inflammatories, perhaps a soothing bath, a long walk, some choice cold medications, even try to simply get some rest, and withdraw from the world for a day or two, or up to a week if necessary.
But what if the flu never went away? What if that pain and fatigue never went away or even got worse? What if that period of blues turned into a full-blown depression and couldn’t find a way to see the light at the end of that long ass tunnel? Now what?
Imagine the anxiety and depression you may feel knowing that what you have was chronic, had no cure, and that it could potentially be a part of your life forever. Now, envision trying to explain this new painful reality to your family, friends, and co-workers in a way that they would understand when you look perfectly fine on the outside.
Spreading awareness about invisible illnesses,is vital.
And please don’t be one of those who rush to judgement when you see what appears to be a healthy person park in a handicap spot.
Wishing you a pain free day