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


Blogging for Invisible Illness Week
The worldwide event is held annually to bring together people who live with invisible chronic illness — and those who care about them.

If you have a blog or other social networking platform, you can share information and lend encouragement about life with chronic illness by participating in Blogging for Invisible Illness Week. You can post your articles throughout the month of September. Family members, friends, and caregivers are encouraged to participate.

Please visit Blogging for Invisible Illness Week for complete details.

The Anonymous Sticky Note Project
This year, people around the world are participating by leaving anonymous sticky notes with words of encouragement — anywhere they can imagine — from bathroom mirrors to public locations to the magazines in waiting rooms. The idea is to remind people that they are not alone and there are people who understand the realities of life with invisible illness.

It’s easy, it’s free, and it will make someone’s day. Create your own “Each One Can Reach One” moment.

Related Reading: Invisible Symptoms of MS * Life with Chronic Illness: Who to Tell, When and How Much * Handicapped Parking: A Guilt-Free Zone

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a regular contributor to Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

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63 comments

Victoria P.
Victoria P.3 years ago

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.

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M.3 years ago

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.

Ann D.
Ann David4 years ago

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

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Penny Carr
Penny C.4 years ago

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

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

Empathy is a great gift!

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

John Streck
Past Member 5 years ago

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.