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An Invisible Illness

Advocating for invisible illnesses is so important. Educating people about invisible illnesses is as well. Yet I forgot not once, but twice. Guilty!

An illness that is not seen

An invisible illness is an illness or disease that is not seen. Some examples of invisible illnesses are COPD, which is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease; asthma; depression; allergies; multiple sclerosis; cancer; arthritis and so many other illnesses.

People might not realize

I believe that chronic illness is anything that lasts over 3 months and cannot be healed completely. Unless a person is wearing an oxygen tank, a person might not realize that their acquaintance has COPD. Unless a person is crying frequently, it may not be recognized that this person is bipolar or suffers from depression.

I have been given the look

Invisible illnesses are similar to a person using their handicapped placard. When a person parks in a handicapped marked spot, even with a handicapped placard, they can still face nasty comments. If they don’t have oxygen on, if they aren’t using a walker, etc. they can face nasty comments and scowls. I know I have been given the look. Though it does change when people see me walk. Then they hurry to open the door.

Invisible illness is real

It becomes so obvious to those of us with invisible illnesses that we need to let everyone know that invisible illness is real. Those of us with an invisible illness are more in-tuned so it’s up to us.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Screech! Okay, I have a confession to make. My daughter and her family came to help do some painting. She has Trigeminal Neuralgia or TN for short. This was possibly caused by dental work when she was younger.

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a chronic pain condition that affects the Trigeminal nerve. This nerve transports sensation from your face to your brain. If you have Trigeminal Neuralgia, even light stimulation of your face — like brushing your teeth or putting on makeup — may cause intense pain.1

TN patients might first may experience short, relatively mild attacks. But the condition can worsen and produce longer and more painful episodes. TM is more likely to occur in women and those over the age of 50.1

What does TN have to do with COPD?

It’s an invisible illness and is about being human. It’s about me knowing about my daughter’s suffering and pain. It’s about me knowing that I need to turn off the ceiling fans and making sure that windows are closed even with paint smells. It’s about me reaching out and touching her face. It’s seeing the color change and instant pain in her face. It’s about the realization of what I did, immediately after doing it. I touched her face which caused searing pain. I should have known better and been more in tune because I have a few invisible illnesses.

Then came Christmas

My daughter, with her family, and a son with his family joined my husband and me for our Christmas. The first thing was a clothing change for a granddaughter. Even though she had washed her clothes, doing everything to eliminate the scents that trigger a reaction, she washed them again. Some detergents are so strong that it takes 2 or 3 washes to get the scents and chemicals out of the fabric.

Triggering a reaction

How wonderful that my family tries so hard to keep me safe! If something triggers a reaction, my eyes swell shut, I cough and get a horrible sinus pain across my cheeks and head. My chest gets so tight. Then I sleep for 1-3 days, waking up for short amounts of time.

A pain and defeated look

There it was, I got caught up in the moment and any thought of what I was doing was just gone. My daughter kept telling her daughter to give her a kiss. I decided to get into the action and told my daughter I wanted a kiss. Then guess what, I reached for and pinched her chin. She gave me such a pained and defeated look.

How does she talk to people and tell them?

I think back to other people’s reaction to finding out that their friend has an invisible illness. Actually, this friend is just finding out about her own health diagnosis. She knew she didn’t feel good, but now she found out she has COPD.

How does she talk to people and tell them? How does she get them to understand and to get them to remember that she has an invisible illness? Maybe by telling others that here is a person with COPD and other invisible illnesses.

Different signs and symptoms

We must try to remember that each of us may have different signs and symptoms. Some people might keep their COPD or other invisible illness more hidden, whereas others might be more visible. The stage that a person is in can also factor in. It’s important to realize that we are all unique in our disease.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/trigeminal-neuralgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353344

Comments

  • KevinDavitt moderator
    1 week ago

    Janet – your observations are so much on target – especially about “the looks” you get because COPD is invisible.

  • Janet Plank moderator author
    1 week ago

    Thank you Kevin. 🙂

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