Invisible Illness Awareness Week

Have you ever seen one of those people who park in a handicap parking space without a sticker? I’ve never appreciated it when healthy, abled people park in a handicap spot. Those spots are reserved for a reason after all…

Maybe you’ve seen someone WITH a handicap decal park in a handicap spot, but when they get out of the car, they look perfectly normal. You watch as they casually exit their car and walk into the building. They look fine. Makeup done, not a hair out of place and no limp or any other indication that they have anything wrong.

PrintYou decide to call them out in your own way… yelling at them, writing an angry note, or telling a nearby police officer. This person looks completely normal! How dare they park in a designated handicap spot with their handicap sticker?! It’s an outrage! There’s nothing wrong with them, right?

Sadly, looks can be deceiving and what you’ve probably just witnessed is someone with an invisible illness.

You may not be able to see it, but millions of people worldwide are living with a life-altering chronic illness. These people often look like your average, ordinary person just making their way through life. You may not even notice them… that is, until they do something like park in a handicapped parking spot.

The truth is, many people are living with a life-altering disease and more often than not, you’ll never know there’s something wrong with them. Many of them do everything in their power to seem normal. They make sure their makeup is flawless, their hair is just so and their clothing is tidy. They’ve become masters at hiding their illness and the pain that plagues them day in and day out. They can fake a perfect smile.

What you won’t see is that they spent hours the night before in pain and unable to sleep. They may have puked their guts out and prayed that they would make it through another night. You won’t see their unsightly bruises that are scattered over their thighs and bellies from their bi-weekly injections of biologics. You won’t see the puncture wounds on their arms from their blood transfusions or medicinal infusions.

You probably won’t even notice the slight bulge under their shirts from their ostomy appliances. You won’t notice their puckering scars from the many surgeries that have been performed. You won’t see the tears they cry as they are hospital-bound days, weeks or months on end. You won’t see their ER visits from severe dehydration. You won’t see their GI bleeds or the countless pills they take every day that help them function in society.

I could go on and list so many things that plague a person with a chronic, invisible illness. But the thing I think everyone ought to know is that a lot of people are living with a disease you can’t see. I would encourage everyone to think before they speak. What you see in that 30 second interaction with someone is not the whole story. It is only a glimpse into their lives.

This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. Please be kind and think before you speak. You never know what kind of invisible battle someone is facing.

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