Saturday, October 1, 2016

Seeing Is Believing, Or Is It?

Humans seek understanding. There is comfort in receiving empathy for life's trials. But what if those trials are not believed solely because they are not externally perceived? 

This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week of 2016. While not all are considered "disabled" or completely incapacitated, one out two people have a medical condition. 10% in the U.S. have a health condition referred to as an invisible disability. [ x ]

Outward portrayal of struggle is not constantly possible. Pertaining to chronic illness, some conditions remain invisible 100% of the time and others only intermittent. Suffers do not constantly have the ability to determine what parts of their condition, if any, are displayed to the world. 

I have been severely afflicted for the last several years by an invisible chronic illness, rebounding between spells of my outward appearance depicting picture-perfect health to looking like death warmed over. 

In the instances when choice is a possibility with my failing body, others see what I choose to show. 

You see cosmetics concealing the burden of carrying years of pain in the bags under my eyes. 
You see fashionable clothes disguising an emaciated, bony frame. 
You see flawless grooming on the days I wish to "rip my hair out" from the effects of my conditions. 

Other aspects of chronic illness, however, are not a choice. 

You may see my tubes, infusing hope for another day into my dysfunctional body.
You may see a few of my symptoms like bruising, flushing, or swelling. 
You may see joint braces attempting to hold my body together
You may see my wheelchair picking me up when my body finally concedes and falls apart.  

There is also what is not visible. 

You cannot see the lack of sleep from being tucked into bed by pain each night.
You cannot see the ache and discomfort after weariness settles into my fragile bones.
You cannot see my tachycardic heart, skipping and racing towards a life more than this.

And the daily hardships exclusive to those occasionally present for what occurs behind the closed hospital door. 

You may not see the medications, saving me from my own flesh and blood. 
You may not see the needle injections while my veins flee from the toxins.
You may not see the labs tests and procedures, confirming my reality. 

But chronic invisible illness patients do not necessarily want others to. 

All that we desire is for our experiences not to be reduced to harmless, melodramatic complaints. We need to be taken seriously, regardless of what you can see, might see, or will not see

Struggles in life are inevitable. God allows every one of us to undergo struggles: visible and invisible. While it is firmly believed struggles are for the greater good, it does not imply that understanding from others is not vital to overcoming them. 
"More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5
My struggle just so happens to be an invisible illness. However, its visibility (or lack thereof) does not deem it undeserving of understanding, compassion, support, and empathy. Seeing is not synonymous to believing.

Happy Invisible Illness Awareness Week!