I'm finding just now, through various channels, something is constantly coming to my attention. Two words really: INVISIBLE ILLNESS. It's something that we seem to accept, as a concept; as a definition - but WHY? - why are we 'invisible'? Because we're not really - we're everywhere.
Do you know someone with arthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis? With any kind of medical fatigue? With early stages of MS? With Fibromyalgia? ME? Someone elderly - perhaps not with a specific illness, but who has slowed a bit with age and is frustrated with their own slowness? Or with heart issues - heart failure; angina, post heart attack? ... There are many examples connected with the heart that slow people down....
It may be a chronic pain or injury - pain in a knee, ankle, hip - a necessary slow walk; or something acute, but not requiring crutches. Acute things tend to pass us by a lot - we are 'inconvenienced'; we temporarily may pass comment on how hard it is, to deal with; or how we "can't imagine how people can live like this" - I've heard those words, many times, from countless people. And, in that moment, people mean it; they have a glimpse into a world they do not usually inhabit. But only a passing visit - and as with most pain, our mind forgets it easily and quickly. The lesson seems to be fleeting too. By the time 'one' is in a hurry again, the acute injury, and all that came with it, is long forgotten.
There are also many people struggling with all kinds of mental health issues, permanently, who may take 'too long' to decide on something seemingly simple; struggling, for whatever reason, to reach a decision - perhaps thinking fast is not an option for them; perhaps we cannot possibly begin to imagine how a brain different from our own works - but we don't really need to imagine, we just need to accept. It is very possible to encounter someone with an acute version of that, perhaps someone with a migraine; or someone who has had devastating news and is so overwhelmed with emotion, they cannot focus their mind on an inane decision such as what type of coffee to order; or something equally trivial.
Then there are people undergoing all kinds of treatment - chemo is obviously one that jumps to mind, sometimes visible, sometimes not - and there are many others too....... treatments, and even the stress associated with them, that slow people down, make it hard to walk, to think, to pull a heavy door, to pack shopping away quickly; even to make a decision.
Obviously I am thinking about Lyme Disease especially - but having my shoulder injury and the associated chronic pain has shown me even more of a world that quite honestly is NOT invisible. I think we have to move away from the idea of INVISIBLE ILLNESS. Opening our eyes, both physically and metaphorically, to the point of observation doesn't just teach us to look a bit deeper; it brings a kinder society - people giving the benefit of the doubt; people choosing to help instead of hurry. Surely, in this world we find ourselves in just now, aiming to be kind may be the best thing to do?
I personally am moving away from the idea of 'invisible illnesses' - I don't think there is such a thing. I think there are (consciously) 'hidden' or ignored illnesses (I'm using 'illness'; thinking about Lyme - but my thoughts are applicable to an illness, a condition, a syndrome, anything really - to PEOPLE; not everything is, or has to be labelled). I think, at our worst, we hide away from the world anyway, almost instinctively - not necessarily through choice, but in the way anyone will 'hide' in bed with the 'flu - several days un-showered, with ratty hair and 'moulded to your body' PJs is not a look anyone really wants to share with the world*!
*However, if you answer your door in PJs in the middle of the afternoon, there is a 'look' - usually a quick flash that may in some cases be inquisitive, but most often says, undeniably: it's 3pm, you have PYJAMAS on. I have learned that throwing a blanket over your shoulders changes this entirely - my own little experiment. People apologise, they "hope they didn't wake you/ get you out of bed/ etc." - just a blanket draped over your shoulders. It's so simple, yet so telling. (Yes, I've still got my geek on...... nonverbal communication, it's always there!)
But ultimately, I'm writing this because I'm beginning to truly hate the word INVISIBLE ILLNESS. It's not invisible. It's often hidden away, but it is also always out there, somewhere.
If you truly keep their eyes open - and sometimes your heart - up the empathy! You will see people all around us who may need that little bit more help, a few minutes more patience - people for whom that loud and exasperated *sigh* really says "we can all see that you're slow; we can all see that you are holding everyone up; you're annoying people everywhere you go."
People may not mean to convey such hurtful messages in a sigh - they are perhaps running late, desperate for coffee, on their way to a meeting. Or in some cases, with a glare and a sigh, they may be first class arses who should pop their own bubble a bit, look outside their comfort zone, and realise kindness never killed anyone!