Dating with an Invisible Illness

In a perfect world, dating, maintaining relationships, being social and making new friends can be a challenge. When you suffer with an invisible illness, these challenges are magnified a hundred fold. If family and friends don’t understand what you’re going through, how will someone new be able to?

Dating is all about first impressions, keeping the conversation flowing, expressing interest, and finding commonalities. Let’s take a look at how invisible illness affects these components of dating:

First Impressions – When brushing your teeth or hair is a physical challenge, it’s impossible to put forth the effort needed to look stunning for a night on the town. If your body is attacking itself, “looking good” is not high on your list of priorities.

Keeping the Conversation Flowing – You’re out of the loop on current events, couldn’t care less about who was just voted off the island, and don’t remember the last concert or sporting event you’ve attended. Your illness consumes your life, and your quest for diagnosis, treatment and understanding don’t rate highly as date conversation topics.

Expressing Interest – Even if you enjoy the companionship and find your date intriguing, expressing interest is a challenge. You simply don’t have the energy to be interested in anything or anyone outside the realm of your diagnosis and healing.

Finding Commonalities – If you’re having trouble keeping the conversation flowing, it’s not likely that you’ll discover what common interests, dreams, and goals you share with your date.

While dating with an invisible illness is certainly possible, building and maintaining a relationship while starting at ground zero often poses insurmountable challenges. Remember, family and friends “knew you when” and have a vested interest in your life. It’s hard for someone new to see the real you – especially when you’ve lost sight of yourself.

What were my personal experiences?  I was unable to sustain any relationship past the third or fourth date.  My energy was zapped and I just couldn’t focus on anything else but getting well.

What challenges is your invisible illness presenting for dating and relationships in your life? Share your comments, or email me at I would love to learn more about you.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Week Intro

The Not So Invisible Costs of Having an Undiagnosed or Invisible Illness

The Great Divide:  How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed and Invisible Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

Employed with an Invisible Illness


Employed with an Invisible Illness

If you’re suffering with an invisible illness, the effect on your career can be devastating.  Being sick takes its toll on your wallet, too, and before you know it you’re caught up in a whirlwind of co-pays, prescriptions, supplements, or alternative treatments, making your need for an income more vital than ever.

The problem is that it’s a challenge to will your body to cooperate each morning when the alarm makes its presence known.  You feel as though you haven’t slept at all, and greet the day with joint pain, cramping, nausea, or a blinding headache. You literally force your body from the bed, and then ask its permission to function.  Something so simple as brushing your teeth or combing your hair can be quite a challenge.  For me, taking a shower was like living a nightmare.  The hives and subsequent hours of itching made me dread the shower like the plague.

And what about actually interacting with your coworkers?  By the time you get there, you’re exhausted from the morning fiasco and it takes all you have to start working.  I was unable to focus and found my mind wandering to the time when I could finally escape and go home.  Each minute seemed like an hour.

Lucky for me, I was able to get by and keep my job.  I became a master at making it appear as though it’d taken me weeks to finish a project when in actuality I’d buckled down and completed it in a few hours.  What did I do the rest of the workdays?  I took stolen naps whenever I could or started at my screen and pretended to work.   I can only imagine what would’ve happened if I’d ultimately been unable to perform.

How is your invisible illness affecting your career?   Have you been unable to attend work regularly?  Or perhaps you’ve endured comments from your coworkers about how good you look (translation:  you don’t look sick….yeah, right).  Share your comments, or email me at I would love to learn more about your health journey.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Intro

The Not so Invisible Cost of Having an Invisible or Undiagnosed Illness

The Great Divide:  How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed and Invisible Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

The Great Divide: How Undiagnosed, Misdiagnosed, and Mystery Illnesses Effect Family and Friends

Familial relationships and friendships can be a challenge to maintain even when your body is functioning at peak performance. So, what happens to these relationships when your body becomes ravaged by the symptoms of an invisible or mystery illness?

Your Symptoms are only the Beginning

Initially, family and friends offer sympathy. They believe that you are suffering, and provide comfort and support. With good intentions, they pay a visit laden with casseroles, heating pads and analgesics – all short-term remedies designed to help “until you get back on your feet.” During the early stages, missing social functions, taking a few days off work, and having a messy house is totally acceptable. In the beginning, family and friends wait with bated breath for the results of your latest medical test, or for news of your latest office visit with the specialist. What happens when the results are inconclusive, or there’s simply no “news” to share? Onward, to the next phase…

Advice from Family and Friends

During the middle stages, family and friends adopt a new mantra: “The doctor can’t find anything wrong, and your test results are all fine.” Family and friends lose heart along with their desire to believe. While you’re still invited to family functions and social gatherings, no one really expects you to attend. Your unkempt home and absence from work begins to be perceived as laziness. At this stage, family and friends feel free to dole out advice such as:

  • “Why don’t you start taking vitamins?”
  • “You probably just need more exercise. Why don’t you buy a treadmill?”
  • “You need more sleep. Start going to bed earlier.”

Or, offered with pure intent from Christian friends:

  • “You need to have more faith.”
  • “You need to pray more.”

Experiencing Isolation

During the latter stage, you become isolated from family and friends. More often than not, this isolation is self-inflicted. You begin to lose the desire to make your family and friends “believe”, and start turning to the Internet for solace, reaching out in cyberspace to connect with others who are also suffering silently. In the latter stage, you may feel like you’re a bother to family and friends, or like a tiresome broken record that’s continually recounting symptoms and failed treatments.

Getting Your Life Back

During the final stage, you rediscover hope. You’re reminded of what your mystery symptoms can’t take away and you make the decision to be proactive and take control of your health. Here, at the final stage, you regain freedom and control over your health challenges.

So, what stage of your health journey are you in? And, what are you doing about it? Share your story, and post a comment.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Intro

The Not so Invisible Costs of a Having an Invisible or Undiagnosed Illness

Using the Internet as a Healing Tool

We all know that the Internet is a great resource for shopping and current events, but have you considered using the Internet to research mysterious symptoms or chronic illnesses? If so, then you have crossed ranks and are now a member of the ever-growing population of e-Patients.   There are a number of ways to harness the power of the internet for medical research:

  • Diagnostic Tools – Although it isn’t a good idea to rely exclusively on online tools, they can offer assistance in finding the outlying symptom. For example, identifying a symptom that doesn’t quite synch with the rest of your symptom profile can help with a diagnosis, or rule out certain illness categories.
  • Blog – Writing is therapeutic, and a confidence builder. When you put thoughts into written words, you’ll strengthen communication skills, which will make asking your doctor questions or voicing suggestions and concerns a much easier task. Plus, when you keep a written record of your health journey, you’ll have a road map of your successes as well as of the potholes and bumps in the road.
  • Read, read, read! – (Did I mention that reading is important?) The Internet is filled with articles, blogs and sites with valuable information that may provide a clue to solving your medical mystery. If you’ve recently been diagnosed, learn as much as you can about your ailment as well as what measures you can take to prevent future problems.

With a little patience and diligence, you’ll learn to master what the Internet has to offer and will  be able to use the information you gather as a steppingstone for moving beyond your illness and regaining freedom and control over your life.

The Not-So Invisible Cost of Having an Invisible or Undiagnosed Illness

If arming yourself with analgesics, tissues, and cough syrup for a week long battle against the common cold racks up a $30.00 tab at Walgreens, just imagine how costly it can be to suffer with a chronic invisible misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed illness.

While initially in the throes of mysterious symptoms, you look to the medical community for help and guidance. After countless office visits to specialists, surrendering pints of blood for testing, and subjecting your already weakened body to a series of invasive and painful procedures, your quest for a diagnosis becomes more harrowing, exhausting, and emotionally draining than Indiana Jones’s search for the Holy Grail.

Personally, I would’ve been happy to spend $30 at Walgreens.  Instead, I bought into every promise made by the supplement industry.   I literally had over three full boxes of supplements and at one point I was taking over 20 pills three times a day!  If I’d known what I know now, I could’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars on supplements alone.

My supplement tab had nothing on my doctor’s tab.  I tried every specialty, both traditional and non-traditional, I could find.  Some doctors charged up to $475 for the first visit alone and, you guessed it, they sold me a ton of supplements.  It was a truly mind boggling and expensive experience.

What price have you paid, or are you continuing to pay for your medical mystery illness? Share your comments, or email me at   I would love to learn more about your health journey.

Related Posts:

Invisible Illness Week is Almost Here!

Invisible Illness Week is Almost Here!

This year, when the dog days of summer wind down and advertisements for back to school sales begin to fill the airwaves, I ask you to consider taking part in National Invisible Chronic Illness Week on September 14th – 20th. Founded in 2002 by Lisa Copen, author of “Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend”, National Invisible Chronic Illness Week serves to increase awareness of those who are suffering with an invisible illness.

So, what exactly is an invisible illness?

Wheelchairs, walkers, portable oxygen tanks, hair scarves and turbans, seeing-eye dogs, and hearing aids serve as tangible indicators of chronic disease or physical disabilities. Invisible illnesses, on the other hand, carry no such calling cards. Sufferers of invisible illnesses may “look fine”, and often bear no outward indicator of their illness. (In fact, if you’re reading this at an Internet café, it’s likely that you’re seated near someone – or may have even been served by someone – who is suffering with an invisible chronic illness!)

Invisible illnesses cross many spectrums, but most can be categorized into the following groups:

  • Chronic Pain
  • Neurological Illnesses
  • Psychiatric Illnesses
  • Autoimmune Diseases

Examples of invisible illnesses include:

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Endometriosis
  • Migraines
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
  • Most autoimmune diseases
  • Thyroid disease
  • Heart disease

(Depending on the type and treatment regime, even cancer can be “invisible.”)

This list is composed entirely of diagnosed invisible illnesses. So, what happens if your invisible illness is undiagnosed?  Trust me when I say, that’s even worse!

For the next 5 Wednesdays I’ll discuss the effect of invisible illnesses on your finances, relationships, family, and careers. I’ll share my story along the way and encourage you to share yours.  Together we’ll fight to bring more awareness to invisible illnesses!

Next week:  The Not So Invisible Costs of Having an Invisible, Misdiagnosed, or Undiagnosed Illness

How the Summer of 1993 Changed My Life Forever

The summer of 2009 marks the 16th anniversary of two defining events of my life: the death of my mother, and the onset of my downward spiral into being undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and chronically ill.

Though my mother died 16 years ago this July, I remember that day as if it were yesterday. My mother was diagnosed with cancer during the fall of 1992 while I was away at graduate school, and I struggled with the challenge of not being able to be with her on a daily basis. A few months before graduation, my mother called me in tears, saying that her pain so severe she would not be able to attend the ceremony. I decided right then and there that walking across the stage meant nothing to me without my mother at my side. I spoke with my professors, finished exams, wrapped up my TA grading, handed the keys to my car to my roommate (I had it shipped to California later), and returned home to be with my mother. Deep in the pit of my stomach, I knew that she didn’t have much time.

I immediately moved in with my mother (my parents divorced a few years before) and struggled to remain strong in the face of her suffering. During this time, I expressed love for my mother more freely than ever, making sure to tell her how much I loved her, and how important she was in my life. Shortly after moving in with Mom, my boss approached me and asked for me to go out of town for a trade show. I was excited by the prospect of my first business trip, and with Mom’s blessing I agreed to attend the event. Before leaving for the airport, I gave Mom a huge kiss and told her how much I loved her. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be our final farewell, and the last time I would ever see my mother alive.

A few days into the trip, I begin to feel that something wasn’t quite right. Then my mother called, saying that she couldn’t take the pain anymore, and asking when I would be home. I knew that the end was near, and not being with her was devastating. I told my Mom how much I loved her, and promised to be home the next day. I will always remember Mom saying, “I don’t know how much longer I can wait.”

The next day, the somber faces of my father and sister greeted me at the airport, and I immediately felt weak in the knees. When we got in the car, my father and sister told me that Mom had died earlier that morning, and I doubled over to stifle the pain and the tears. Though 16 years have passed, the pain of this memory is so raw and close to the surface that it still makes my eyes flood with tears whenever I think about it. Losing my mother was the worst experience of my life.

A few months later, my body crashed and began attacking itself. Yep, this is another anniversary that I’ll never forget.  You can read more about my health journey here.