The term invisible illness refers to any medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others, including healthcare professionals. Invisible illnesses encompass a broad range of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, dementia, psychiatric illness, and autoimmune disorders.  More than 125 million Americans have at least one chronic condition, and more than 40 million people have an illness that limits their daily activities.  In contrast, 7 million use a cane, walker, or wheelchair, making their disabilities visible.  Here is an article, along with some helpful hints of what

“BUT YOU WERE FINE YESTERDAY”

I’ve lived with mental health conditions throughout my whole life in many ways. I have depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (complex-PTSD to be more precise.) I’ve been dealing with the various battles that come with these illnesses for years now.

At the beginning of this year I was in a particularly dark phase, a phase that found me on my knees (literally) crying out to some void for answers and wishing I knew to be true all my pain would end. It wasn’t the first time I’d felt so low — or the last — but no matter how many times I feel this bad, the intensity can still shake me to my core.

It didn’t end. I didn’t end. The pain didn’t end.

Until it did.

Not fully. Never fully. I don’t think I know a day when I don’t have some part of my mental health impacting me in some way. And to add to it, I have a chronic physical illness that loves to dance on the ledge of my being and pull me under to sit with my mental health companions.

But somehow, for a week, my mental health shifted. Maybe only a little, but from a relentlessly dark place, a little can feel like a whole lot.

Recently I moved houses. I moved into a space that is the first place in many years I can really call home. And for a week or so up to and just after moving, I rode a wave I did not realize I was riding. A wave where my mental health felt a little lighter. I began to see some light and find some purpose and make plans. I felt more alive than I had in a long time.

And yet, I didn’t notice it, not fully. I didn’t notice the pulling in my gut that makes me want to cry out to the world. Or the anxiety that runs and runs and runs through my mind. Or the staring at walls, hiding under the covers because facing the world feels too much. Or the constant memories and reminders and triggers of the traumas of my past weren’t there quite as often. I didn’t notice it because the physical exhaustion of moving kept me firmly held in feeling unwell and at physical unease.

And then today I saw it. Today I’ve noticed how much of a “lighter” time I was having.

I’d love to say I’ve noticed because I feel lighter still, but the truth is I’ve noticed it because for the last few days, I’m sinking in feelings of desperation and darkness and emotional pain that I know oh so well. And yet, it feels unbearable.

I’ve noticed because by contrast, how I feel now is starkly different.

If it had lasted longer than a week or so, maybe I’d have noticed how less unwell I was feeling, maybe I’d have been able to bask in it a little. And yet as it is I can only look at it and wonder how on earth I ever got to a lighter place when I feel like I’ve hit the floor again (figuratively this time).

I’m not in the same place I was at the start of this year. I know I don’t feel quite as desperate and OK, I’ll say it, suicidal. But I do need something to shift, something to change, something to move so I don’t spiral any further.

And maybe I’ve caught it this time. Maybe I’m catching it before I hit quite as low as I have been, many times in my life. Maybe it’s because I felt lighter for a time I can notice the difference before I spiral much further.

And maybe at some point when everything doesn’t feel quite so heavy, I can feel grateful (I do, somewhere deep down I know I do feel grateful).

It’s relentless. Mental illness is relentless. Once these unwanted companions of mine take a hold of me, they become relentless – depression, anxiety, trauma.

I’ve done enough rounds with them to trust there will be a shift. There has to be a shift, one way or another because feeling like I feel right now cannot sustain itself for long. One way or another something always shifts.

Writing this in itself, means something — even something tiny — is already starting to shift. It’s telling me I’m reaching out for some support because my walls have been down this week.

I know I’m not in my darkest of dark places. I’m not even in as dark a place as I was in the minutes before beginning to write this, before I noticed the spiral I was sinking into.

There’s so many times when I get a remark or a look or a suggestion of “but you seemed fine yesterday.” These suggestions make my blood boil, because perhaps I had a mask on yesterday, or perhaps I didn’t and today I just feel like shit. Mental illness (unfortunately) doesn’t work quite so neatly and easily as one day we’re suddenly all fine. For some of us, one day can be a little brighter and the next we can be in the depths of our dark places with little rhyme or reason.

But while these suggestions make my blood boil, I think the surprise I’ve been feeling the last few days at how low I’ve become again is my own way of suggesting it to myself. It’s like my own inner critic is berating me for not being able to sustain the “better” feeling. It’s like I’m suggesting to myself “I looked so well last week” or “I’ve moved and I’m feeling more settled at home so I should be fine now, shouldn’t I?”

Mental health isn’t linear. It doesn’t work in a way where we’re feeling a little better and then it’s all downhill from there. It’s up and it’s down and back up and up and uphill again.

And I’m saying this because there have been many, many times when I’ve not been able to catch myself in my spiral, times when it’s taken someone else actually stepping in and showing me how much support I need.

So if you have a friend who you know has mental health problems who “seems” to be a bit better, please still check in with them and please be there without judgment or disappointment if they are able to tell you that aren’t feeling quite so good.

And keep checking in. And keep being there.

We can’t do this alone. None of us can.

As for me, you’ll find me still here, battling through all of this, practicing a whole host of self-care and making a promise to myself right now to speak to my closest friends in my physical world tomorrow to help me out of this spiral or if nothing else, to help steady me over the next few days.

And if you’re in a similarly dark place please reach out to someone.

You are worthy of support.

You have done nothing wrong by feeling how you feel.

You are perfectly enough.

This article was authored by Sarah Mariann Martland and originally posted on January 31, 2017 on www.themighty.com

 Encouraging Words

I believe you.” It’s likely your friend’s illness or symptoms have been dismissed by others. By acknowledging her illness, you’re showing compassion and understanding.

2. “I don’t understand, but I’m willing to learn.” It means a lot to someone who is ill to know that friends and family are wanting to learn more about their condition. Ask if there’s a book or website that could help give you information on what their illness or disability is like and how you can best support them.

3. “How can I be of help?” What’s “helpful” to you may not be helpful to your friend, so start by asking and then follow up on it through your actions. Sometimes people feel shy about asking for help. In that case, below are three practical ways you could help.

4. Cooking/buying a meal. Chronic pain or depressed moods can make cooking a challenge. Ask what food restrictions they have and surprise them with a meal.

5.”Help run errands. This is especially helpful if your friend cannot drive due to their illness or medications. Pick up the dry cleaning, mow the lawn, or offer to drop the kids off to school.

6. Assist with house chores. It can be hard to keep a tidy house when you’re in pain, are
feeling down, or are sensitive to chemicals.

7. “I’m flexible — just let me know if that day/time doesn’t work for you.” This gives your friend the flexibility to participate when he feels well, even if you don’t notice it. And when you do get a chance to spend time together, express how much it means to you.

8. “I can tell you’re working at hard at this.” Try to be more empathetic, realizing that their struggles are constant. Acknowledge her effort to take care of her health and keep up her daily life. Cheer on your friend with affirmative words.

Comments to Avoid  

1. “But you don’t look sick.” They may be having a “good day” or maybe the illness isn’t visible due to clothing or makeup.  Still, you don’t have to “look” sick to be sick.

2. “You’re too young to be sick.”  Anyone can acquire an illness or disability at any age.  Furthermore, some conditions are more common in younger people — like Type I diabetes in children or depression in young adults.

3. “You know, everyone gets tired.” People with chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, heart disease or other disorders may experience extreme exhaustion and need more rest.

4. “Come on, you’re just having a bad day.”   For someone with a chronic illness, every day can be a “bad” day.

5. “It must be nice to miss school or not go to work.” It’s no fun to feel sick, be bedridden, or visit a doctor. Just because it’s harder for someone to attend school or work, doesn’t mean he or she is finding an excuse to avoid responsibility.

6. “What if you just exercise more?” Perhaps exercise may help, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, a disability or pain can prevent someone from exercising.

7. “I think it’s all in your head.” Positive thinking can help, and negative thoughts can lead to depression. Our mental wellbeing affects our physical health, but a bona fide illness is not a made-up problem.

8. “You just have to push through it.” Your friend probably already tries her hardest to succeed, accomplish tasks, and stay healthy on a day-to-day basis. Besides, comments like these can lead people to delay or ignore treatment.

9. “In time, you’ll get better; don’t worry.” If the health condition is chronic (long-term), progressive (gets worse with time), or even fatal, this may not be the best thing to say. Sure, one’s attitude can improve with time, but be careful with assuring improved health.

Have you tried [fill in treatment option]?” You don’t know what homeopathic or medicinal treatment options they have already tried. Furthermore, some supplements may interfere with prescription medications.  Rather than giving a tip on how to
cure his disease, ask if it’s okay to share an article or research study.

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