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How to Talk About Your Invisible Illness



An invisible disability is a physical, mental, or neurological condition that is not immediately apparent to others, and may include issues with chronic pain, mental health illnesses or even traumatic brain injury.

These disabilities affect nearly 10% of the US population, impacting daily life in various ways. Despite their invisible nature, these disabilities are just as real and significant as those that are visible. They can range in severity and can affect a person's mobility, cognitive abilities, and emotional wellbeing. Unfortunately, many individuals with invisible disabilities face stigmatization and discrimination due to the lack of awareness and understanding.

Living with an invisible illness is a journey can take years to come to terms with the diagnosis, symptoms and how to live your life. The road is marked by discomfort, questioning, and often a sense of hopelessness or frustration while facing daily struggles and long-term management strategies. This journey is unique to each individual, and while their internal and physical battles are challenging, explaining their condition and symptoms to others can be an entirely different battle. Navigating how to share symptoms and feelings or sharing the struggle each day brings with family, friends and co-workers is a daunting prospect.


Discussing invisible conditions can be an overwhelming experience for anyone, filled with feelings of anxiety and vulnerability. The fear of judgment, ridicule, or even punishment is a very real concern for many. However, it is important to remember that sharing your experience does not diminish your value or worth. In fact, discussing invisible conditions takes tremendous courage, strength, and self-love. By opening up about your struggles, you may inspire others to do the same and help to break down the stigmas surrounding invisible conditions.


Consider These Three Ideas if you are ready to open up about your condition.


Why?


Let's first reflect on why we are opening up about an invisible illness. Understanding the reasons behind sharing about an invisible disability is crucial in determining the best approach for disclosure.


Is it to secure accommodations from an employer or to defend one's position in the workplace? Perhaps it's to address issues in a relationship or to bring a loved one into your world.


Regardless of the reason, analyzing the "why" will guide the level of detail shared and the desired outcome. Being open about a condition can bring about positive change, but it is important to be strategic in deciding who and how much to share. By reflecting on the motivations behind opening up, individuals can navigate these conversations with confidence and clarity.


Remember, the decision to disclose your condition should ultimately benefit you and help you feel more comfortable and supported in your daily life, and analyzing the "why" will help determine your strategy regarding your approach and how much detail you provide.


Who?

Living with an invisible disability can be a challenging experience. Every day you may find yourself having to navigate the difficulties that come with a condition that others cannot see. And when it comes to sharing this part of yourself with others, it can be just as complex. Who do you choose to open up to? For many, it is all about finding the right balance between discretion and honesty.


In many circumstances, how much you share is determined by who you are communicating with. Your employer may only need to know certain specifics about your condition, such as how it impacts your ability to work and any necessary accommodations.


On the other hand, those closest to you may want and need to understand the personal and emotional aspects of your disability so they can understand how best to help and support you. Do you need a place to vent your frustrations, do you need some compassion when you need to cancel last minute or do you need assistance with daily tasks? Sharing these deeper feelings can lead to greater understanding and foster a deeper connection within your relationships.


By carefully selecting who we share with and being mindful of what we share with those people can help ensure your story is heard in a meaningful and impactful way.


What?


Remember, what you are not doing is defending who you are as a human being. Sometimes we go into the process of sharing our struggles with shame, guilt, or in a self-deprecating apologetic posture. You are not apologizing for who you are. Why? Because you love yourself and you have nothing to be ashamed of.


Living with an invisible illness can be a challenge. It's not always easy to describe the symptoms, and others may not understand the difficulties you face on a daily basis. However, it's important to remember that you are not defending who you are as a human being. You are not apologizing for having an invisible illness. Instead, focus on loving yourself and recognizing that you have nothing to be ashamed of. By embracing your reality and sharing your struggles in a confident and self-assured manner, you can help break down stigma and promote understanding among those around you.


Opening up about an invisible illness can be difficult. Still, by thinking through these questions, you can best evaluate how you temper what you share and how much you share, hopefully relieving yourself of unnecessary pressure and stress. Remember, you control the conversation and how much you reveal. You are explaining your condition or sharing your story with others to connect and provide understanding but don't feel like you have to apologize for being you or go into the depths of your life's story and personal journey. Millions of people experience physical, mental, and emotional conditions and illnesses. You're just someone with an invisible one.

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