“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:
#TeaAndWordTuesday, Meg Weyerbacher
14 thoughts on “#ThisIsChronicIllness”
First of all, I am so sorry that you have both RA and Fibromyalgia. I have the latter, have for the past 20 years. I am still learning. I also love this picture at the end for your 31 days! I did that either last year or year before for the topic of caregiving as I had cared for my mother for the last 15 years of her life. I wish you the best as you write in October.
I know the constant pain can be overbearing and cause lots of things to not happen in our daily walk. God is with us and will walk through these valleys as we draw near to Him. I want that and try, but do not always succeed.
Thanks for sharing and glad we are neighbors at Meghan's today.
Oh, I am sorry that you have had to deal with the pain of fibromyalgia for 20 years! You are an inspiration to me, that you were able to care for your Mom through that time as well! And the depth of heart that you pour into your own writing has always blessed me! So thank you for your encouragement to continue with the writing challenge! Yes, isn't that little puppy cute? She's my daughter's schnauzer, and has such an endearing way of listening, and trying to get your attention! So glad you stopped by! –Blessings to you!
Bettie, I really look up to you for writing about the harder things. I am praying for you of course. I have a person in my life who puts up a tough act and shuts us all out. It hurts her worse than I us but she doesn't see it or won't admit it and it does hurt us too. We just wish she would let us in, to love her fully, weakness and all. I am believing one day God is going to melt her heart though. Thanks for sharing this hope message today and a reminder for us to learn to lean in and listen more. PS: Yay on the #write31days!!! So glad to see you soaring, can't wait to read!
Your beautiful heart shows through this post! And you hit the nail on the head that often we have no idea what someone's smile is hiding. I admire you so much that you meet your challenge head-on, yet show compassion to others, offering your story, your perspective and above all, your listening heart. I think you already have a listening heart and I'm so excited you will be sharing thoughts every day in October! Love that you're doing that! xo
Thank you, Meg, for your encouragement! I am so sorry about your friend and the tight shell that she lives in. I am sure that your loving her is having an effect, even if you can't see it. I will pray that she will take a risk and let you in, even if in a small way! And thanks for your encouragemnt for the #write31days! I'm so grateful for every prayer! –XOXO
Yes, isn't it amazing when God lets us hear & feel His compassion for someone who is walking a different path than we may have known about? We just never know what others are going through, do we? I appreciate your encouragement and prayers so much! I feel very weak to walk forward in this writing challenge, but I know that GOD will send what I need! **HUGS**
These words: “an “invisible illness” carries with it: a mystery of pain that can't be understood from the outside looking in” are so true. No-one can fully understand the depth of another's heartache, struggles or pain, but you have a great sensitivity in these things, a tender, loving heart and a listening, attuned ear that is receptive to God and to others.
I look forward to reading the insightful words you will share in the days ahead, knowing they are wrought in the furnace of affliction and have our heavenly Father's seal on them. May you be given all the ability, strength, energy and inspiration you need to accomplish this task. Prayers, blessings and hugs to you, sweet friend! xo
Dear Joy, Thank you for your prayers and encouragement! I so long for God's comfort to be spoken through my words and actions, but feel often that I fall so short. I am glad that God sees our heart, and adds His Blessing to our meager efforts! I treasure your presence on this journey my friend! May God give us His strength to continue! XO
I'm looking forward to this, Bettie. Invisible illness is harder than many people realize. Because we “look good,” there are many who don't believe there is anything wrong. It truly makes us more aware of the hurts behind a smile, doesn't it? I have always felt you have a listening and compassionate heart, and I really feel like you understand me. 🙂 You are so brave to commit to writing for 31 days! May God give you the strength, enlightenment, and peace you need! Hugs!
Oh Trudy, I appreciate your support and encouragement more than you could know! Sometimes I feel like God led me to this blogging place so that I could make new friends, of which you were one of the first! You blessed me with your own honest posts, and then with your heartfelt comments over and over again. I am so thankful for your prayers, as I need so much “strength, enlightenment, and peace!” **Hugs!**
Wow! I am seriously feet dragging making the 31day writing commitment. It takes a lot of discipline.
Right now my body needs rest. I am tired theß few days. I don't like medications Bettie. I've been trying to ear healthy the days.
Invisible sickness is terrible because every thing looks ok on the outside!
I love your heart to encourage everyone going through this or something similar.
Much love to you friend
Thank you Ifeoma! I am so sorry that the weakness is lingering for you these days! You are in my prayers, dear sister! I know that the words in your book have gone out to encourage and bless so many. May the Lord return that blessing to you now, as you rest in His presence! **HUGS and LOVE to you!
Bettie, I’m also dealing with health issues brought on by exposure to black mold. When I'm around someone wearing fragrance it can make me sick for days. I wrestle with when I am to rest and when I am to press on. I believe it is a day by day, moment by moment walk. Bless you.
Debbie, Oh that sounds so trying to struggle with the after-effects from horrible mold! Yes, it is a moment by moment learning experience that we are walking through here. Thank you for stopping by, and I will keep you in my prayers! –Blessings to you!