In a recent survey of 611 chronically ill individuals, done by the National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week committee, 53.27% of the respondents said that the most frustrating or annoying comment people make about their illness is "But you look so good!"
Usually we think that telling people they look great is a compliment,
but it can easily feel like an invalidation of the physical pain or seriousness of one's illness and the suffering they cope with daily.
There are many people who learn to cope with the physical pain of a chronic condition, but the emotional ones are often more difficult to grasp. Statistics show that nearly 1 in 2 people in the USA have a chronic condition and 96% of it is invisible. I began National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week in 2007 to help bring people together who were suffering silently, to allow them to express their frustrations and to help them find understanding with one another, despite their illness. This year National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week will be held September 10-16, 2007. As the founder of a a Christian organization, Rest Ministries, we use this opportunity as an outreach to those who live with illness, to let them know that there can be peace that passes understanding in the depth of the darkest moments of illness.
We hope by providing them with a safe place to talk about their emotions, we can share what keeps us goingthe Lord Jesus Christ.
Respondents answered the survey at www.invisbleillness.com
and reported the following other annoying comments people tend to make:
* "Your illness is caused by stress." (14.22%)
* "If you stopped thinking about it and went back to work" (12.42%)
* "You can't be in that much pain. Maybe you just want attention." (10.95%)
* "Just pray harder." (9.15%)
Carmen Leal, creator of SomeOne Cares Christian Caregiver Conference and author of "The Twenty-Third Psalm for Caregivers" says, "When someone appears physically normal people are less likely to show understanding and compassion. National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is an important opportunity to help families, businesses, churches, and communities understand that conditions without an outward sign are just as debilitating as other more visible illnesses and disabilities."
I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for fifteen years. We know that 75% of marriages impacted by illness end in divorce and 70% of suicides have uncontrollable physical pain as a factor.* There are hundreds of invisible illness such as diabetes, cancer, myasthenia gravis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Crohn's disease as well as mental illness and conditions such as bulimia or migraines. Regardless of one's illness or level of pain, feeling isolated and misunderstood can be emotionally devastating. We are each responsible for learning how to effectively show compassion and understanding to those we can about, including the chronically ill.
National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week's web site has articles, resources and will feature twenty online seminars during Sept 10-14, 2007. Guests include Maureen Pratt, author of "Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness" and Jenni Prokopy, founder of ChronicBabe.com. Outreach materials include t-shirts, silicone awareness bracelets and rack cards, appropriate for support groups or the work place state what to say and not say to a chronically ill person.
The theme for 2007's invisible illness week campaign is "Living with invisible illness is a roller coaster. Help a friend hold on!"
For more information see http://www.invisibleillness.com
or call 888-651-7378. National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week is sponsored by Rest Ministries, http://www.restministries.org
, a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill and HopeKeepers Magazine.
* Sources: National Health Interview Survey / Mackenzie TB, Popkin MK: "Suicide in the medical patient.". Intl J Psych in Med 17:3-22, 1987
If you lead a support group or are considering it, don't miss Lisa Copen's new book, http://StartAnIllnessSupportGroup.com for your ministry needs. Over 300 pages with step-by-step instructions on how to write a vision statement, promotion and attendance and much more!
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