“Invisible Illness Awareness Week” this year is September 26 – October 2, 2016
Invisible Illness Awareness is a movement that was started over 10 years ago to encourage us to look around and see with new eyes the way that chronic illness is affecting so many people now-a-days.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about half of all adults in this country have some kind of Chronic Illness, and one in four adults had at least two different chronic illnesses. Before my own journey with Rheumatoid Arthritis began, I had no idea that so MANY others were affected by these difficulties. In fact, because of the way that the media promotes fitness and health to our culture, I thought we were generally becoming a MORE healthy people. After all, MORE people at the gym must equate to MORE health out there, right?
Well, not quite. Could it be that we are simply unaware of the silent struggles that so many of our friends and co-workers and even family members are facing? It’s a risky business to be honest with how one is really feeling these days. Success gets measured by how many activities we can plan, and by how full our calendars become. Fake-it-till-you-make-it has become a mantra for those who’ve learned that no one wants to hear how weak you actually feel.
Why do we feel that we must maintain this “perfect persona” as we barely limp through each task? I had a nurse (who had multiple chronic illnesses herself,) tell me that “she doesn’t have time to be ill.” Really? How sad that statement reflects upon us as a people.
When I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I was given very little information. A diagnosis, a brief explanation, and a slew of prescriptions were supposed to carry me through till the next month’s appointment. “Do you have any more questions?” the Doctor asked. Well, yes, actually . . . “What questions am I supposed to know to ask about? And where do I even begin to understand this disease?” But of course, I didn’t say that, I just picked up my prescriptions and headed out in a daze into a world that had just shifted to a new axis.
It wasn’t until my next diagnosis came, a year later, and Fibromyalgia was added in to the mix, that I began to make connections with a whole world of people that were also feeling alone in their silent journey with chronic illness. Those who understood the tentativeness that must accompany all of my scheduling, because I never know how the pain levels will rise or fall on any given day. Those who understood the confusion that was felt in my heart when others would say to me, “You look so good today! You must be feeling better!” But how do you respond when the pain levels are WORSE than they were the day before, and the person is waiting for your “positive” response? In silence, of course, because after all, that is what an “invisible illness” carries with it: a mystery of pain that can’t be understood from the outside looking in.
We can choose to adopt a Listening Heart. And that is what God is calling me to search out this month. I hinted last week at an adventure that God has called me to join in: the #Write 31 Days Challenge. So, for the month of October, I will be joining with thousands of other Christian bloggers (yes, you heard right, that’s THOUSANDS of other bloggers) who are making a commitment to write every day during October on a subject of their choosing. On my first post, I’ll be linking back to the website where the challenge is hosted. I will also try to make an index (of sorts) on my first page of posting, so that if you ever come over to my blog and want to see a post that you missed reading, it should be listed there on that first page.
This is a new ocean that I am swimming in. And I am weak with the un-knowing of it all. But I can’t ignore the nudging of my FATHER who is asking me to “Hear with my ears” and “Listen with my heart.” There are too many people who have felt invisible for too long. And there are words that have been unheard in my heart for too long.
I am linking this week over at these great blogs: