Colin T. Son, MD


August 18, 2009

As a physician, making a diagnosis and treatment plan for a chronic illness can be very frustrating. But for patients, just trying to understand a condition is exasperating; living with it is another story altogether. Consider it the stigma of invisible illness. That's what Lisa Copen, the Director of Rest Ministries, calls it.

Rest Ministries hosts National Invisible Illness Awareness Week, which publishes commentary, stories, and resources for support related to invisible illness.

The week (September 14-20) is dedicated to informing the public about invisible illnesses -- illnesses that cannot be seen -- and the surprising stigma that accompanies them. Consider Lisa's story about using her disabled parking placard:

I circle the parking lot a fourth time on this day. I hope for a spot to open up within two-hundred yards of the store, but there is nothing remotely close at this bustling superstore where I need to buy my prescriptions and milk for my toddler. My rheumatoid arthritis is flaring badly, causing extra fluid in my knees to dislocate pieces of loose bones. Every step is painful and unpredictable. Finally I sigh in resignation and pull into the farthest "blue parking spot." I reach for the placard--the one that has a bold white symbol of a wheelchair--and no, I don't have a wheelchair--yet. So after fifteen years of having this "privilege" at my disposal I still warily scan the area before reluctantly dangling the placard from the rear view mirror. Is there anyone watching, wondering, or waiting, ready to confront me?
I've had scathing notes left on my windshield and many people, empowered by television exposés, have approached me with their opinions. Judgmental expressions and whispers sting just as much. My husband and I adopted a baby and when I would get my child out of the car I would avoid eye contact with onlookers because I could hear their whispers of, "She's not disabled! Or--if she is--she has no right to have a child!"

Other stories follow, about doubt from husbands and wives, about parenting with a chronic illness, and about how to be a good friend to someone with a chronic illness.

The Invisible Illness blog is full of shared experiences.

This week, invisible illness gets a little more prominent when the Invisible Illness Awareness Week blog hosts Grand Rounds
August 18, 2009

Many of us know someone with a chronic illness. Often it is someone without prominent outward manifestations -- that is, no cast, no cane, no walker, no brace, no deformity. Disabling, life-altering illnesses are experienced everyday by our friends and loved ones.

The experiences and support shared by the sufferers of invisible illness on the Invisible Illness blog make for an affecting and great read, but the advice for those of us who don't have chronic illness is invaluable.