Ten years ago I began this fight with chronic illness and I vowed to myself I’d never give up! That I’d never lose hope or let it stop me from doing the things I wanted to do. Unless you live with chronic illness then its hard for you to appreciate just how hard it is to get up each morning, knowing that your goal for that day will be to get through it in the least amount of pain! Some days are just an extension of the long nights with no sleep, fighting through the pain that wakes you with the slightest move if your lucky enough to fall asleep! I’m not saying all this because I’m looking for any type of pity but because I want people to see the reality of living with a “Invisible Illness”.
Chronic Illness is drawing attention at the moment under that term because people are finally starting to see it for what it really is. Its those symptoms that lots of people don’t see that make going through an illness like CRPS so difficult. Half the battle in bringing about awareness with chronic illness is changing perception of the public and how they view us! What a lot of people don’t stop and think about is that on the outside a person suffering with chronic pain can look very normal but on the inside their body is at war with itself. People don’t understand that I can walk into a crowded restaurant feeling fine but the noise sets off a trigger of mine which makes my pain spike! This then sends me into a tailspin for days and it becomes hard to function at very basic levels.
Did you know that in the U.S. 96% of all cases of people being dignosed with a chronic illness show no outword signs of their illness. What people need to know and empathize with however is that those symptoms that you don’t see can hinder a person from going to school, work, or even to just socialize. Now I know I mentioned before how dibilitating an illness like CRPS or other chronic illness can be but there’s a point to where I’m going with this. If a teacher doesn’t know that a student is suffering from a chronic illness that causes cognitive imparements then they become impatient with the student. That student might look and act normal most of the time and so on the outside things appear normal. If you educate the teacher about the student then the teacher can work with the disability.
So when it comes to work its largely the same in that things might seem normal on the outside but there can be something completly different going on inside. With CRPS I have a physical side to the disease that shows but you’d be amazed at how many people judge me and say “well its just a hand”! They miss everything thats going on inside my body and how its fighting itself. They miss how my nervous system has developed a mind of its own and how I’ve lost control of it. If we educate people on this however then the battles that we hear about in getting employers to recognize chronic illness become fewer.
The social side of a silent illness is a little different when it comes to understanding. A person who deals with chronic illness learns very quickly the various triggers that affect them and cause pain to be greater. I won’t get into the triggers because there are lots and for everyone they are different. What I will say is this, when we are trying to manage our symptoms we will do what we need to do in order to manage them. So when a person dealing with a chronic illness seems anti social and needs time alone let them. They are probably trying to manage their illness! Again its educating friends and family about this so that they understand whats going on inside that person.
So if you haven’t already caught on to the point of this post then let me summerize things for you in a nutshell. Its really about educating people on Chronic Life! If those of us living a life of chronic illness want to be understood then its our job to help educate and bring awareness. As a result of doing this then we will start seeing perceptions change and thus the hidden side of chronic life will become more exposed and less invisible!