I know what it is like to have an invisible illness and a chronic illness. I was diagnosed in 1990 with Meniere’s Disease. In 1994, came Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Panic/ Anxiety Disorder. When people look at me, they do not know I am sick
What they don’t know is there are days that I cannot function. If it is not vertigo from the Meniere’s Disease, it is the daily pain from Fibromyalgia. I am constantly unsteady and I fall. I am always tired. I don’t sleep well at night from constant pain.
I am always in a state of panic. Anxiety is really bad, you cannot shut your mind off from any thoughts or feelings. When I tell people that I am sick, they say “well you don’t look sick”.
I do have a supportive family, especially my Mom. She is my best friend. I don’t know what I would do without her. I try to stay informed on my illnesses. I have great doctors that take care of me. I do take a lot of medicines.
But my biggest helper of all, is God.
I remember when I first became aware of Rest Ministries, I was attending a seminar on Invisible Chronic Illness that was being sponsored by our local hospital. I had just been diagnosed with both Osteo Arthritis and Rheumatiod Arthritis, and my dear friend who was attending with me was dealing with Fibromyalgia.
We were amazed at the number of people in attendance at the seminar, both men and women, all of whom looked perfectly normal and healthy just as we did. But as I looked closer around the room I could see the visible signs of the Invisible Illnesses. The mis-shaped hands of the chronic arthritis sufferer or the grimace on the face of someone who simply needed to change position in their chair.
Yes, we all looked the picture of health, but when we are grocery shopping we walk slower, have trouble reaching items on high shelves, can’t bend down to get things from the low shelves, or worse yet, we only go shopping when someone can go with us to help with these issues and more, like carrying the groceries into the house and putting them away.
Some of us even still feel guilty when we park in a handicaped parking place, we look so normal, but have so many issues to deal with and by the time we get home from errands or even one errand, we have to recouperate before accomplishing even the simplest task at home. Chronic Invisible Illness means living a delicate balance between what needs to be done and what we can actually accomplish, between knowing our limits and making sure the others in our lives take these limitations seriously.