The worst part about invisible illness, for me anyway, is that people forget. If you have a broken foot, people see the cast and remember. No one knows I have TMJ Disorder just by looking at me. When I’m eating in public, I feel like I should wear a sign: My momma raised me right. I’m trying to chew with my mouth closed but my jaw doesn’t work properly.
Chewing gum is absolutely forbidden when you have jaw trouble. Yet, even close family members still offer me gum, and I’ve had TMJ Disorderfor five years.
My husband, David, has severe Psoriatic Arthritis. Folks look at him and see a healthy young man. People that know David well forget how bad he’s hurting because he doesn’t use a cane or a wheel chair.
One example in particular sticks out in my mind of how easily we forget about people with invisible illness. David and I both see several of the same doctors. One day, I saw one of our mutual doctors who had just seen David a few moments before.
He was asking me how my day had been, and I mentioned my mother, mother-in-law, and I had trimmed the trees in my front yard. The doctor said, “Hey, be careful. David’s going to be upset you’re doing his job!”
Oh, how quickly we forget.
Even I forget sometimes and ask David to move a piece of furniture. Or, someone will invite us to do something like attend a Mavericks game, and I accept the invitation, only to realize later that there’s no way my husband can handle that much walking, let alone sitting in a hard metal chair for hours.
I always feel so guilty when I forget. David is bedridden at times. How could I forget he has a chronic illness like arthritis? How could I suggest he wakeboard a few months after a weekend of having to dress him?
People forget. God does not.
Isaiah 44:21 (NIV)
“Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you.
Isaiah 49:15 (NIV)
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
We are so blessed that God is not only omniscient, but God actually cares about his children’s troubles.
It’s okay if you forget that I have TMJ Disorder or David has arthritis. But please, try to be kind and considerate to everyone. You never know what they’re going through or what invisible illness they may have.
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness week is a great way to educate friends, family and churches. Many people think that only elderly people get sick, or that having a chronic illness means you did something wrong.
A Young Wife suffers from TMJ Disorder. She loves Diet Coke and dessert. She and her husband David were high school sweethearts. They have a dog named Henry that they spoil rotten. In February of 2008 David was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. Having a chronic illnesses has changed their lives. It is a strain on them financially and emotionally. Visit her blog here!
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1. Make sure you have a support system. For me, this is my family and a few close friends. You may want to utilize a Sunday School teacher, a counselor, or a support group for caregivers. Check out Rest Ministries Hope Keepers.
2. Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat right, have a hobby. The healthier you are spiritually, mentally, and physically, the better you will be able to help your spouse.
3. Educate yourself. Read everything the doctors gives you. Do research on the internet. Read up on your health insurance. Get to know your pharmacist and ask them questions about your spouse’s meds. Knowledge is power.
4. Remember it is okay to be sad. It is perfectly alright to feel upset about your situation sometimes. We are to weep with those who weep.
6. Figure out what you CAN do. Maybe you and your spouse will never be able to go dancing again, but you could go to a concert. Maybe you’re like us, and you can’t go to the movies, but you can watch Netflix! Get a movie size candy from the grocery store and a bottle of Diet Coke. Make it fun.
7. Research alternative medicine, such as chiropractic care, massage therapy, diet and supplements. Even if there isn’t a cure for your spouse’s invisible illness, perhaps they can get some temporary relief from Epsom salts in a hot bath.
8. Talk to your spouse. Ask them what they’re thinking. Find out what their concerns are. Ask them how you can help. And a few weeks later, ask again. I’m always surprised at how my husband can change his mind about things from month to month.
9. Get life insurance. Who would care for your spouse if something were to happen to you?
10. Maybe your spouse can’t do everything they used to. But maybe they don’t mind if you still engage in those activities. Your spouse might love to take a nap while you’re wakeboarding.
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness week is a wonderful way to educate family and friends about the struggles people with invisible chronic illnesses face.
A Young Wife has been married for three years. She and her husband have a dog named Henry that they spoil rotten. A Young Wife is a housewife that loves Diet Coke and dessert. Eighteen months ago, her husband was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis. This debilitating invisible chronic illness is quite a struggle for them. Visit her blog here!
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