I saw this on Facebook today. HOW TRUE! We have ”you don’t look sick” illnesses. The friend you meet for lunch doesn’t see the inflammation of Crohn’s disease; but she can’t miss seeing you run to the restroom 5 times (in a 2 hour lunch) with diarrhea. Judgement: “What is wrong with her?”
If you have lupus or Sjogren’s Syndrome, the painful joints aren’t SEEN. Judgement: “She’s just trying to get attention with that limp,”
If you have fibromyalgia, you’re the one who may be unable to get out of bed because of pain in your muscles because it hurts to much to get out of bed and take that hot shower which may help. Judgement: “After 10 hours in bed, how lazy can you be?” Similar scenarios exist with the other invisible illnesses. Besides being invisible, they make us feel invisible!
So. What do we do? Advertise to the world that we are sick and ask that they pity us? NO. That is the wrong kind of attention. When you’re asked why you’re leaving the party so early, “My joint pain has become too great, I’m no fun to be around. I think I need to go home and draw a hot bath because that always seems to help.”
Be gentle in your explanations. This might be your chance, your opening to explain that there are illnesses that can’t be seen (unlike a broken arm) and that you suffer from one of them. Give an example; like “remember when we were out to lunch recently and I went to the bathroom 5 times during lunch? Well, I have Crohn’s disease; you can’t see it, but this is one of the symptoms that I deal with on a regular basis.
Rather than write someone off who doesn’t know these illnesses exist, most people will respond favorably to you and not judge you if they know what you deal with on a regular basis. When people are given a succinct, well-worded reason for something that they don’t understand, they usually won’t judge anymore If they do, at least you know you’ve tried your best!