When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia several months ago, I had a very strange reaction to the news.
I felt a huge wave of relief wash over me.
That seems odd, doesn’t it? You are diagnosed with a life-altering incurable health issue that no one really knows much about, and you are relieved? After years of fatigue and pain and health issues that didn’t respond to the treatments like they should have, at least now I had a documented reason for the way I was feeling.
And I wasn’t just relieved by the diagnosis. I wallowed in it.
Too tired to do the laundry? Well, I have fibro – what do you expect?
Too exhausted for intimacy? Have a little pity, it’s not my fault I have fibro.
Too sore to go to the gym? I have scientific proof backing my choice to not exercise.
Honestly, I do have many days where it is a sheer act of will to get to the kitchen for a cup of coffee after getting out of bed. I don’t like showers because they are too painful for me, so I take baths, which leave me wiped out for a bit. I try not to schedule anything in the mornings since I don’t really know how long it will take me to get moving.
But I was using my health (or lack thereof) to justify not even really living.
So, here is my new mantra: Live life to the fullest extent possible, without using a diagnosis to make excuses. Now, if I honestly cannot do an activity, I won’t. My point is to not simply let my multiple health conditions take over and take away my life.
Here are some ways you can help (whether it is me or another individual):
1. Please don’t tell me I don’t look sick. I try to not look sick. Don’t most people try not to look sick? Many people suffer from invisible illnesses and are battling something others may never see.
2. Don’t ask me if I am getting better. My issues are not curable (yet) and they will not just go away.
3. Do ask me how am I feeling or how I am getting along. If I need to share my need for help or prayer in an area of my life, this gives me the opening to ask without feeling like I am dumping on someone.
4. Understand that when I use the valet parking at church or some other location, yet I walk in without any limping or other issue, I am not just being lazy. I am taking advantage of a service that is provided that, although I may not need it when I arrive, I may definitely need the assistance when leaving.
5. Don’t be afraid to invite me to do things. If I absolutely cannot, I will let you know. I would rather be asked and have to turn it down than to never be included.
6. Don’t feel sorry for me. Everyone has their own battles they are fighting, and everyone needs to be understood and cared about. Ask me questions about my health issues. If I can, I am happy to share with you what I know.
7. I am still me, no matter what my body is doing. You can still be my friend, and that is the most important thing you can possibly do for me.
Resources for more information (my specific invisible illness issues)
Rheumatoid Arthritis http://www.rheumatology.org/I-Am-A/Patient-Caregiver/Diseases-Conditions/Rheumatoid-Arthritis
Irritable Bowel Syndrome http://www.aboutibs.org/
Chronic Depression http://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-signs-and-symptoms.htm
Generalized Anxiety Disorder http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad