Living with an invisible illness, Shawn Smith, Ottawa
An invisible illness is an umbrella term for any medical condition that isn’t easily visible to others. This includes chronic physical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and others — but also mental illnesses. Living with an invisible illness often leads to judgement and criticism because others believe you look fine on the outside, and therefore must be “making up” your suffering.
Unlike having a condition that’s observable, those with invisible illnesses often face a lack of social awareness and additional stigma. As a result, these individuals often face more skepticism, and are accused of being lazy or moody and in need of cheering up, going out more, calming down, or a host of other dismissive judgements.
To complicate matters, like many chronic conditions, mental illnesses tend to ebb and flow in severity — some days, weeks, and months go really well, and during others it’s difficult to work, socialize, and function, confusing those who can’t “see” why one day is good and another a challenge.
I cannot express to you the frustration and smouldering depression associated with looking well but feeling ill all of the time.