Not every ailment is as obvious as an amputated limb or a skin affliction. Or as well known as cancer or Diabetes. Diseases such as epilepsy or ulcerative colitis (and so many other diseases) can be considered to be invisible diseases. Having had an invisible disease for most of my younger years, as well as dating someone for over six years who deals with their own invisible disease daily, has taught me a lot about how it feels from both perspectives.
From the inside looking out:
Having a disease in where no one can actually see any signs of you having a medical issue can be a daily struggle, on so many levels.
I suffered from epilepsy for as long as I could remember, and I’m not talking strictly the convulsive kind of seizures. For those who aren’t aware, there are various types of seizures. Some that only occur in the mind of the person having them. Not saying they’re imagining them either. Just like with a headache, you can only feel it in your head. With no visible signs that they are in fact having a seizure. My mom knew me well enough, she could spot me having one from a mile away. To someone who didn’t know me or understand what I was dealing with, they would just see a strangely quiet little girl who sometimes wouldn’t respond when being talked to or would suddenly stop talking mid conversation.
Being in middle school and high school with this issue was rough, to say the least. Kids can be mean, and have a hard time understanding and excepting things they don’t know about.
I was really lucky and my disease was taken away from me just before my sophomore year in high school. I don’t even want to begin to imagine what kind of life I would have right now, had I not been cured the way I was. I’m sure I wouldn’t have nearly as many friends as I do now. I would’ve been much too shy to reach out and try and make any friends, as I was for years. Moral of the story, be kind to everyone you meet in life. You never know what they might be dealing with.
From the Outside Looking In:
Whether it’s someone close to you or an acquaintance at your workplace, if you know that that person deals with a disease that’s not very apparent to someone who doesn’t know them well, here are a few things to keep in mind when interacting with that person.
If they say they’re in pain or discomfort, they mean it. Someone who deals with an ailment on a daily basis, that causes them chronic pain or discomfort won’t lie about that fact or just say it to get attention. Someone with an invisible disease usually doesn’t particularly like to talk about the issues they have going on. If they actually do say something about it don’t take it with a grain of salt. They are probably in significant pain or discomfort to have said something about it to you.
They don’t want sympathy. They don’t want you to feel bad for them. They just want to feel understood and accepted. Rather than pitied upon like some sick animal that can’t quite put into words exactly what the matter is. being understanding of their situation doesn’t mean you have to have first-hand knowledge of their disease. if they say they’re having a bad say dealing with their sickness, or even that they have a doctors appointment that day, all you have to do is be a kind, supportive friend.
if their mannerisms seem strange at any given time, don’t criticize or ask a million questions. Offer to assist if possible, and leave it at that. just tell them that you are there if they need anything. if they say they are unable to perform a certain task, whether at work or at home, trust them when they say they can’t do it. They know their body better than anyone. As I stated earlier, they won’t use their ailment as an excuse by any means. Having an invisible disease can be a very embarrassing burden to carry. Making it sound like they have a disability makes that feeling of embarrassment 100 times worse.
Doing research on whatever condition it is they are dealing with can be helpful to both you and them. You’ll be gaining knowledge for yourself, as well as knowing more about what they deal with on a daily basis. Therefore giving you a more detailed understanding of their invisible disease. Rather than trying to pick up clues and insight from them. It’s easier for the person with the disease if you, as a friend, comes to them equipped with at least some of the knowledge they wish everyone they dealt with daily had.
Being an understanding friend is all someone who fights a battle with an invisible disease could ever ask of anyone. Not having to fight alone makes the battle that much easier every day. No one should ever have to feel shunned or misunderstood, just because they are dealing with a sickness that they never even asked for in the first place. You never know what battles someone is fighting against ivisible demons.