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Invisible Illness: What You Can Do

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Invisible Illness: What You Can Do

“Each One Can Reach One” is the theme for this year’s National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week, September 13-19, 2010.

The annual event, which began in 2002, is the brainchild of Lisa Copen, founder of Rest Ministries. “Most people are not looking for large support groups or 100 percent understanding when it comes to living with a chronic illness. People in pain often times just want ONE person who really ‘gets it.’ And that one person can make a world of difference.”

Living with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis, back pain, migraines, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and a myriad of other conditions can make the world a lonely place.

Chronic illness, invisible or not, does not happen in a vacuum. It affects a person’s outlook on life, marriages, family relationships, friends, and co-workers. It spreads its tentacles beyond health care into finances, employment, social life, and long-term planning.

Each One Can Reach One
When thinking about Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week and why it is important, I recalled an incident from several years ago that put it in perspective.

I was feeling particularly healthy during a welcome remission from relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis, and the party was in full swing. MS was not on my mind as I mingled and sipped a glass of wine. My mood was upbeat because I did not need a cane to walk and could manage the wine and the buffet-style meal with no assistance.

There is a woman I see socially only a few times a year, and it just so happens that she has a very serious auto-immune disease that is, for the most part, invisible. We are kindred spirits of sorts. When she entered the room I energetically approached her to trade pleasantries. When she asked how I was doing, I replied that I was doing very well. “Just look at me!” I beamed with a partial twirl.

She stared me straight in the eye and said, “You do look good, but I know better than that. Who do you think you’re talking to? How are you really?”

Instantly, I felt a lump rise in my throat and my eyes began to mist. As it happened, I truly was doing great, but that’s not the point. She understood. She knew that when it comes to chronic illness, what you see is not necessarily all there is.

That spark of recognition… that knowing look… that understanding statement that said so much was a real-life “Each One Can Reach One” moment.

Next: Blogging for Invisible Illness Week & The Anonymous Sticky Note Project

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Read more: Arthritis, Blogs, Conditions, Diabetes, Family, General Health, Health, Living with MS, Multiple Sclerosis, News & Issues, Women's Health, , , , , , , , ,

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63 comments

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4:21AM PST on Jan 14, 2013

The more empathy out there the better. People can be quite rude when you suffer from a condition that they can't see and therefore understand. Giving folks the gift of compassion works as a two way street, both sides benefit.

8:23AM PST on Jan 11, 2013

To repeat comments, thank you for shining a light on this issue and raising awareness. This condition does not choose the age, gender, race ,lifestyle or creed of the sufferers. No matter how we try, as we get older, invisible illness does begin to intrude into our lives- arthritis, osteoporosis, COPD, high blood pressure, diabetes, stomach issues, respiratory issues,etc., add to this depression and the possibility of dementia creeping in....
Invisible illness ,to me, also affects one's emotional state. Over time, living with these invisible yet crippling illness, emotional fragility can set in. It would be re-assuring to be with people who can relate with you with no judgment and still care to be with you. Sadly, there are very cruel ,unsympathetic and mean people in this world- we all have them.

4:30PM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thank you for the moral support. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and all who suffer constant pain.

10:03AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thank you

10:02AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thank you

1:28PM PDT on Apr 9, 2011

This is so true people dont really know how much pain you are really in with these illnesses.

6:42AM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:47AM PDT on Mar 28, 2011

Empathy is a great gift!

3:46AM PDT on Mar 28, 2011

Thanks for sharing.

12:14PM PST on Feb 1, 2011

Thank you. I also have relapsing/remitting multiple sclerosis. The experience of feeling constant pain, experiencing fatigue and/or exhaustion can be demoralizing and isolating because you are often unable to complete meaningful work, home-related tasks and engage in social interactions. With these lifestyle limitations, you begin to view yourself as less fully human than before.

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