Editorial: “You don’t look sick!”

“But you don’t look sick!”

Millions of people suffer every day from disabilities.  Disabilities that are not obvious to onlookers are referred to as “invisible disabilities,” or “invisible illnesses.”

idaPeople who suffer with invisible disabilities can see this as a positive—no one knows that they are dealing with an illness or disability.  They have the ability to keep private in regards to their medical conditions, and they can avoid many questions and concerned friends constantly asking, “How are you feeling?”

At the same time, no one knows that they are facing obstacles every day that no one else sees.  Unfortunately, many people claim that these people are making up or exaggerating their illnesses for attention, just because they are unable to see anything out of the ordinary.

“But you don’t look sick!”

A friend of mine combats a type of invisible disability.  She is a dedicated student who gets good grades, is an active member on campus and tries to be as normal as possible.

To outsiders, she physically looks normal.  On the inside, she has joint pain every day.  Her joints partially dislocate on multiple occasions each day.

To outsiders, she looks like she is lazy when she takes the elevator; her knees hurt every time she steps up.  She avoids the task of carrying heavy items and avoids heavy tote bags so that there is less weight on her shoulders.   Sitting in a classroom desk chair or in a seat on the shuttle can be uncomfortable, so she seems like she shifts around and is restless.

She is dealing with a physical problem that causes pain, and in addition, she has to deal with the judgment of others, because they cannot see her disability.

The Invisible Disabilities Association does not publish a comprehensive list of disorders considered invisible disabilities.  Symptoms and disorders include chronic pain disorders, debilitating fatigue, vision problems, autoimmune diseases and more.

The association’s website offers information on living with an invisible disease and how to spread awareness.  Invisible Illness Week sponsored by Rest Ministries, Inc. is Sept. 26-Oct. 2.  Invisible Disabilities Week sponsored by the Invisible Disabilities Association is Oct. 16-22.