In the realm of chronic illness, one of our more challenging tasks can be gaining support from others. As if finding a knowledgeable and caring doctor wasn’t difficult enough, finding caring and supportive friends to surround ourselves with can be even more difficult. Most people are simply not capable of understanding, unless they have the misfortune of a chronic illness of their own.
How many of us have heard something along the lines of “But you don’t LOOK sick...?” It makes one wonder how a sick person is “supposed” to look. If one were to hobble around on crutches, would their illness suddenly become more believable? Our society understands the visible, physical manifestations of illness, such as a broken bone in a cast or hair loss from chemotherapy. What many fail to grasp is the subtle, invisible manifestations of chronic illness. Symptoms such as pain, severe fatigue, and cognitive impairments are not easily visible to the average observer, which means that sufferers of chronic illness often look “just fine”.
Our society is all about instant results - the mindset that we can just pop a magic pill and all our troubles will go away. When sufferers of a chronic illness do not quickly “get better”, we are often treated as if it were somehow our own fault. We may even be told that we are “hypochondriacs” or that “it’s all in our head”.
Remember when you had the flu? You were exhausted, achy all over, and could hardly get out of bed. But, fortunately, the illness passed and you were back to your old self and usual activities.
Now, imagine if you had never recovered from that flu. Every day, you wake up achingly sore and as tired as if you had not slept at all. Imagine trying to go through your usual activities while feeling this way. Not only do work, school, and regular tasks of daily living become near-impossible, but so do the smaller day-to-day things that so many take for granted, such as simply washing your hair or paying the bills.