I’m often self-conscious about how I reveal my struggles (may I say illness?) to other people – even those most close to me. It is so easy for me to be hurt by good intentions, by people trying to help. Usually they end up inadvertently invalidating the severity of my experiences. If they haven’t walked that road who can blame them?
But my life is intertwined with others’ to a point where my illness affects them on a daily basis. It is a daily struggle. I wrestle with self-hate and self-doubt for a number of reasons but a dominant one is how I affect those closest to me. I’m also concerned with how they affect me. When I’m feeling so alone and those around me do more harm than good I retreat. I retreat and the Ache gets increasingly intense and becomes unbearable. This is usually when a downward spiral begins.
I am constantly wrestling with the dichotomy of wanting to be invisible and wanting to be seen. I want to trust but I find myself mistrusting others. I want to be vulnerable but I build walls instead.
And what if the person that you love the most is the person who misunderstands you the most? What if the person you most want to be seen by is blind to your pain? The tendency of this person to be blind and my tendency to retreat into invisibility is a perfect storm for conflict and pain.
I’m not looking for answers. All I can do is keep on trying to take care of myself and keep my feet on solid ground. I can’t make people (or a person) see things – or me – a certain way. I’m just trying to hope. Hope with all my might that there will be connection and healing someday.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Those with an “invisible” illness have a difficult time being understood and treated with compassion by many people. It’s like they forget: they forget that sometimes you aren’t yourself, that you are in a place where the smallest thing can tip you over the edge, that you don’t need judgment – just grace and love. It is my desire to be one of those people extending compassion and grace to those who are hurting. To see them for who they are, not who I think they “should” be. To be sparing with my words and generous with my listening. To simply be there: a presence to remind them that there is no shame and that they are not alone.