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

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