Invisible illnesses are just as debilitating as other more visible illnesses and disabilities, possibly more so with the lack of understanding and compassion because the person looks completely normal. If someone gets out of a parked car in a disabled parking spot and walks away, they are immediately judged that they are parked there illegally. There is no consideration that they may have a disability that is not visibly apparent. Some invisible illnesses do not have as much recognition as others. If someone tells you they have cancer, you may not have been able to see they were ill, but do not think ‘It’s all in their head’ or ‘They don’t look sick’ and discount their ill feelings, like so many of those suffering with less well known illnesses receive as a response. People are always telling me that I look great because I do not look sick, but I am actually quite ill and it is just as difficult for me to hear this as it is for people to understand that I am sick.

I have suffered, largely in silence for ten years since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia in my early twenties. I write for the first time about my personal struggle and hope to bring some understanding with May 12th International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day to this and all other invisible illnesses including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, Chronic Pain, Migrane headaches, Mental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivies, just to name a few. There are unique challenges to each of these illnesses, but most share the perception of many around us who feel that because we look normal, we are not sick.

I am not an activist for this illness, not having been very outspoken about it in the past. In fact many people outside my close family and friends reading this may be surprised to even find out. I am often hesitant to tell people I have this condition, afraid of their reaction, and have often left it unsaid in the past due to a lack of understanding. I am trying to live my life as close to normal as possible, although this is quite difficult much of the time. I write this from personal experience, a testament to those friends that have stuck by me and even to those I have lost because of this illness, trying to give some insight into how difficult living with this really is.

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