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There are many ways in which people feel invisible and isolated, but one of the most widely known, and unknown, ways in which people use more strength and effort to achieve what others take for granted is living with an invisible illness.

Pushing through your daily routines with pain can be truly punishing and at the end of the day exhaustion ensues.  For some, such supreme effort can keep them homebound for days seeking recovery.  The mental and physical fatigue is very real and cannot just be “slept off.”

It is estimated that over 10% of the population in the United States has an invisible illness and the percentage expands for those with an invisible disability although I suspect that the number is actually higher (these are classified differently under the Disabilities Act – the U.S. Census estimates that 19%, 1 in 5, of the population – over 56 million people – have a disability).

Many invisible illnesses have neurological origins and are woefully misunderstood.

The saddest truth is that you will be judged and quite harshly by some.  There are more critics than those who will empathize.  Some will create drama over their aches and pains and soak up all the sympathy that they can.  But, as Maya Angelou aptly put it, you don’t have to be one just because you have it.

invisible_maya angelou

I don’t feel that those of us with invisible illnesses are looking for pity or a public showing.  However, private concern, compassion, kindness, and understanding seem like too much to hope for, but are genuinely desired.

The range of invisible illnesses include genetic diseases, Fibromyalgia and Lyme disease, to Multiple Sclerosis, ALS and Alzheimer’s in early stages, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and other autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Depression and all mental illnesses, to Heart or Lung disease, Endometriosis, Diabetes, and Cancer.  The broad scope and list of such illnesses is long and very real for those suffering.  We want to remain positive, we want to feel good, and we want to live without pain.  We wish that we could.  But, when we have experienced it we have two options: selfishly claim that ours is worse than others and become bitter or empathize with another’s pain and acknowledge with comforting compassion and patience.

Those suffering with invisible illnesses often feel that they live in an invisible world, as their lives and feelings are hidden away to please others (who rarely are) or prevent discrimination from affecting them in any way at work, school, or social situations.  They fight twice as hard for every day in misunderstanding, fear, and the vast unknown.


While completely misunderstood, you cannot classify hundreds of millions of people around the world as “faking” or seeking attention.  Most will not receive any and will struggle alone.

Life happens and we do not always have the choice of health and wellness.  Masking it to make others feel more comfortable only adds to the difficulty.  Each of us is fighting a battle that no one else knows.

The first step is empathy and acceptance. Appreciate that while beauty may be skin deep, illness can and does indeed go to the bone, and strong people bear it as well as able every day.  The majority of people do not want to experience pain, struggle, or seek medical attention as often as they must to live active and functioning lives.  However, criticism, demeaning, and intolerance wound further.


If you are living with an invisible illness, what has your experience been?

Thank you for sharing.



  1. Great writing! Such an important topic!

  2. Living with a chronic illness is only understood by those living with a chronic illness, I believe. People choose not to be empathetic, think someone is “exaggerating” whining, or have a “low threshold for pain” I had a tiny window into chronic pain- not illness- when I broke my elbow. It was a year of hell, physically and emotionally, and I realized no one “got it” Waking up day after day feeling lousy wears one down. What you have written is so important for people to hear… to really hear and try to understand. ❤

    • You bring up such an important point. Chronic pain has varying timelines in our lives, but exposed to it, we do understand the struggles and challenges a bit better and that creates empathy. Your confirmation and opinion is so meaningful. I truly appreciate your sharing your experience.

  3. Thanks for shedding light on the unseen realities of so many of us. I pray you find your healing as we are made to regenerate healthy cells. I trust that it is for you as well as so many who suffer needlessly. I share my journey, feel free to check it out. I would love to see my journey and struggles change the lives of others. God bless.

    • Thank you. We live long enough and we each experience those issues that separate us from people as we hide behind diagnoses or symptoms. Hopefully, finding community helps. I will be sure to read through your post. Be well.

  4. An important topic – there are so many people suffering double – illness and other people judging them. I have a daughter in law with a very unusual syndrom, she looks really good…but suffers hell pains every move. Unfortunately no one understood or tried to SEE what was wrong. Now she is 23 and her life is ruined because she was forced to attend all physical subjects at school and in her spare time, also had to walk a long way to school every day – and much more. Last year she was diagnosed with EDS. And there is nothing to be done about it. Too late. What should have been done was before the age of 11.

    • How heartbreaking! People trying to be “normal” but forced to do things that cause pain and further damage. So misunderstood… 😞

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