Invisible chronic symptoms from an invisible foe should not be met with bias from those looking for visible “proof”. Lacking physical signs of pain can lead to challenges that complicate the already difficult journey of those battling a chronic, novel illness. Gaining awareness is the first step towards combating misconceptions. Insight can go a long way in improving your ability to support others facing chronic challenges associated with this novel, unprecedented full-body viral assault.
The below is taken from Ashleigh Louis, PhD, LMFT, PA and is worth sharing in the context of Covid-19.
1.”How they look doesn’t necessarily reflect how they feel.” What’s one thing every person with an invisible illness has heard? “But, you don’t look sick!” One source of guilt for those with invisible symptoms stems from judgment and hurtful commentary. In general, these stem from lack of awareness and understanding of the experience of having prolonged symptoms and highlight the importance of suspending judgment and seeking additional info.
2.”Adjustment can be very difficult.” Having prolonged pain often leads to periods of hard adjustment and can bring up a range of emotions in the individual as well as in the people around them. Adding fuel to the flame, many have to take a break or give up entirely on goals and activities that they once treasured.
3.”Management is sometimes a full-time job.” Individuals with chronic symptoms manage a schedule of medical visits and a host of other resource-draining responsibilities. Further complicating the picture is the challenge of working with practitioners who may demonstrate poor bedside manner and a lack of understanding. Treatment protocols are aimed at managing aspects of the disease, and while those can be helpful, they are not curative and are often riddled with guesses.
Want to help, but not sure how? Ask! If you’re not comfortable asking, start by being kind in your assumptions and interpretations. This may mean giving the benefit of the doubt and setting aside ego. These actions reduce the likelihood of causing more stress or damaging the relationship and can go a long way in supporting those with chronic illnesses.