WHAT IT’S LIKE TO FEEL INVISIBLE: VALIDATION IS KEY
Living with an illness that is not visible to the naked eye is often very hard for many individuals to understand because let’s face it, “Seeing is Believing”. People are normally more able and willing to acquire something as true if they can actually physically see it for themselves. This way of thinking can and will turn an already burdensome situation for someone like myself into an even more isolating and difficult experience when we no longer feel accepted or supported.
If we are ever going to collectively move towards a stigma free society it needs to start with one key ingredient: Validation. Validation is learning to recognize and accept another person’s internal struggles as being real and in doing so you are communicating to the individual that you are there for them and that you care about their thoughts, emotions and experiences even if they may differ from your own. It also means that no matter who you are or what you are battling against that your feelings ARE valid, your pain IS valid and that your suffering IS valid too.
The truth is though that when suffering with an invisible illness as I do it is very easy for some people to make you feel invalidated and I see it more and more as the years pass by. I have felt abandoned, ignored and judged too many times to count, by people who can’t physically see my feelings, my pain or my suffering and therefore gather their own conclusions based on what they see from the outside looking in.
Sadly, based on these conclusions I sometimes find myself wishing that if I suffered from a more visible illness then I would feel more validated and more accepted. In order for some people to take an illness like depression or anxiety more seriously they need to see me at my worst to make it seem more credible or believable. Do I really wish I had to endure an illness that was more visible, probably not, but please just try and understand why I may feel this way?
You see, my outward appearance doesn’t always match my inward appearance and unless of course you have x-ray vision you can’t actually see what’s going on inside my brain making it so easy for others to assume that I look fine and therefore I must be feeling great. But unfortunately it’s not the case and it becomes quite frustrating at times and often hinders my recovery when I feel invalidated.
I know that it probably shouldn’t matter to me that some people may not understand that my illness is very real and very much controlled by a part of my body that is not visible to the naked eye, the part of the body which controls and affects the way we think, the way we feel and the way we behave, but it truly does. I only wish that instead of sometimes feeling that it would be easier to have a more visible illness, that society as a whole could instead learn acceptance, learn to believe in someone’s pain or internal struggles, learn to not make inconclusive assumptions and most of all learn that validating a loved one’s feelings can go a long, long way.