This week is Invisible Illness Week. I have debated about how involved I would be, but I have composed a two-part-blog-post-on-understanding-and-its-counterpart-support. This is what I fight for.
I Fight for Understanding
When you face chronic, invisible illness, one of the most evident blessings is understanding. There is comfort in knowing others understand, or are pursuing understanding.
Understanding invisible illness is not an easy task. It is not a skill you can develop in school or pick up on a whim. It takes deliberate action. Understanding places us in the place of choosing to stay by our friend’s side and understand what they face – as much as we can.
Understand allows us to know how to be there for our friends. As we fight for understanding, I have compiled a short list of things we can immediately put in action – to help and be there for those we love who face illnesses that might not be highly noticeable to the outside world.
Typically, for me, you probably wouldn’t know my struggles…
Unless you visit my blog
Unless I confide in you about them.
Tips on Understanding
These are strictly understanding tools. When we know what their ailment is called, we can research it. If we don’t understand, we can ask questions. Most people, well I know for me, I love it when people ask me questions.
When you ask me questions, you show you care!
We are blessed to live in a time, where medical information is literally at-our-fingertips. When we learn that our good friend has been diagnosed with something, we can go on a venture to learn more. Why, learn more? When we know what our loved ones face, we can know how to offer them support.
A Played-Out Example
An example would be good, right? Okay, so I have what is called Neuro-Cardiogenic Syncope. We will refer to it, as NCS for short. When I share my struggles with people, they have no idea what NCS is. It’s sorta like, “N.C – what?!?” “NCIS?” Um, no. NCS (which I mistakenly refer to as NCIS when I am incredibly foggy in thinking). When people know my struggle, it won’t come as a surprise to them when my best friend is salt and caffeine. I have had others who haven’t understood that.
So, this is why understanding is a part of my fight – gaining awareness to help my friends know my battle… Because when I have friends that take the time to understand the mechanics of my condition (NCS, for example), it is comforting to me. They have taken the time to know what I face, and it is written all-over-our-friendship that they deeply care for me and my health.
**This is likely the most lengthy part of this post. Bear with me. Or, come back when you have the time**
Questions. Hmm. What kind of questions are the best to ask someone who faces a life and health that is likely different from your own?
We want to ask questions that are geared toward understanding their battle a bit more. The best way to do that, is to focus on our hearts/attitudes and then the questions.
Here is a list of questions to break the ice in your conversations with those with invisible illnesses.
- What is the hardest part of your health struggle?
- What do you wish you knew earlier in your struggle?
- What do you wish your friends and family knew?
- Can you share more about your health issues?
- Do you have to follow a specific diet, because of your health issues?
- How has your faith in God given you hope in the midst of your trials?
- Is there a specific Bible verse you cling to, more than most?
- What advice would you give to sufferers?
- What advice would you give to those seeking to be a support to sufferers?
- What resources are out there for those with loved ones who are sick?
For fun, I have decided to just take the extra time (and making this an unexpected lengthy blog post) to answer the questions that I want people to ask me. I am not answering all of them, because some are a one-on-one kind of answer. I openly share with others, but sharing on a blog post – kinda different.
What do you wish your friends and family knew?
I wish they knew how much I need them to reach out, and keep encouraging me in life and my walk with Christ.
How has your faith in God given you hope in the midst of your trials?
My faith in God has grown through my trials. God is the One who keeps me going. These past several months, He has shown me that He alone is the One who continually sustains me. He is my purpose and reason to keep going. His will doesn’t pass over me, just because I am sick. God continually uses me, and that’s part of my testimony.
Is there a specific Bible verse you cling to, more than most?
There are a few Scriptures I like to hold onto. Mark 5:1-20 and John 9:2-3 are among the top ones. It just reveals to me that it is for His glory, and how much God cares. Even when I feel like I am going crazy during my time of sickness, Jesus is there and cares deeply!
What advice would you give to sufferers?
You may not feel or see it, but God is exactly there with you in your time of struggle. He is with you, ready to be your ever-present-help. Turn on praise music and draw near to Him. Try and find a way to get in the Word (the Bible), even when it is difficult. Even if you can only read one small verse, do it. Focus on Him and how He is working in and through you.
What advice would you give to those seeking to be a support to sufferers?
Continue to be present in their lives, and show them you truly care. For sufferers, they can friendships dwindle away due to their affliction. Just be there. Check on them. Find ways to offer support.
What resources are out there for those with loved ones who are sick?
I highly recommend Rachel Lundy’s Chronic Illness and Friendship.