Invisible Illness

Occasionally you see something come up on Facebook about the fact that people have invisible illness but look fine on the outside. It’s easy to judge someone based one outward appearances when you don’t know the struggles they are having. I suppose we do that to boost our own sagging egos.

But consider for a moment some of these scenarios:

The fat woman you see at church that just seems to keep gaining weight may be having a reaction to some medications for something. Or she has an out of control thyroid. I once gained 40 lbs in two months without changing a thing about my diet and exercise because of my thyroid and new medication that was not at the right dose. Too bad pills don’t take that kind of weight off just as fast. As fat as someone is, for all you know they have just lost 50 lbs and deserve instead to be encouraged in their journey, not condemned.

The person with the smile that seems distant, might be struggling with depression, anxiety or other issues that are preoccupying their mind. They desperately need a friend but are too wrapped up in their own pain at the moment to respond out in a normal way.

And then these are the hardest. One gal I know has a brain tumor and suffers horrible migraine headaches. To look at her you would only see a smiling mother of six young children, who might just be overwhelmed with the challenges of parenting. She is, but with a harder struggle than you can imagine.

Or the woman who shows up to church alone every Sunday with her kids. She smiles and looks great and you suspect perhaps her husband just doesn’t want to come to church, when in reality at home she is being emotionally abused but out of respect for her husband, doesn’t say anything to anyone else.

I guess my point is this: We all struggle with something and outward appearances can be deceiving. Not that people are intentionally misleading others, just that our pain is private and we don’t walk around with signs on our heads announcing our struggles.

Depression, Fibromyalgia, Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (and any other number of autoimmune diseases), back pain, cancer. All of these can be hidden illnesses that severely impact the person without you seeing their struggle.

The fact is, we all struggle at times. As Gilda Radner used to say “It’s always something.”  And maybe if we can remember that a book cover and it’s contents don’t always match. A house with curb appeal could be a dump on the inside. So the person who seems “fine” may be struggling with deep issues or problems you have no clue of.

So maybe we can be kinder to each other. “So as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another….” Colossians 3:12a (NASB)

And when we see someone who can’t hide their problems, maybe we can reach out to them with empathy. I was on a trip once and one of our group was in a wheelchair. A lady turned to me and said, “It must be hard to have to live that way.” I shrugged and told her that in some ways we are all in a wheelchair, some you just can’t see.

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4 thoughts on “Invisible Illness

    • Excellent point! When we see others through HIS eyes we can look past the outer shell to a person who is dearly loved by our Creator, just like us, flaws and all.

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  1. Beautifully written and great insight. Jesus told us to, “judge not according to the appearance…” John 7:24 So often, the one who appears to have it all together, is the one struggling the most, and in need of our compassion. Today, I have a wonderful life, but as a young woman I almost died by suicide, and can agree firsthand that you never know what someone might be living with. That’s why, we need to be kind to each other along this pathway that we call life! Blessings, Susan.

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  2. Exactly! And that was the theme/reason of the very first book I ever wrote – what goes on in the life of the person across the aisle. How well do we really know each other, or bother to meet other people where they are? And I admit, I’m guilty as well of those snap judgments.

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