Many people with chronic pain suffer from a disability that is largely invisible to everybody else. Hundreds of disabilities–from chronic pain to Crohn’s disease to fibromyalgia–are largely invisible.

While you might look “fine” to friends or family members, this outside persona hides the pain and suffering occurring on the inside.

It can become difficult for the people in your life to understand what you’re going through and that looking fine doesn’t always equate to feeling fine. Not being able to articulate these feelings to somebody close to you, much less have them even notice that you’re in pain, can create a wall of isolation that is difficult to overcome.

There are resources for people with invisible disabilities. The Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA), in particular, provides a number of educational pamphlets about how to cope. Most importantly, perhaps, they have simple resources that you can pass on to family and friends so they can better understand what you’re going through. Booklets like But You LOOK Good! A Guide to Understanding and Encouraging People Living with Chronic Illness and Pain is an incredibly valuable read for those suffering from invisible disabilities, as well as those around them. The IDA also provides facts and activism about service animals, handicap parking, and chemical sensitivities.

For another in-depth look at how an invisible disease can affect a person’s life, read Tessa Miller’s excellent article on her trial with inflammatory bowel disease. 

Through education, your family members and friends can come to better understand what it’s like to live with an invisible disability. However, sometimes it’s best to find support from those who actually know exactly what it’s like. Numerous support groups exist to help those with invisible disabilities find hope, humor, and advice. The Invisible Disabilities Association has online meeting places to find others living with an invisible disability. ChronicPainSupportGroup.com is another online resource to connect with others living with chronic pain.

Living with an invisible disability is hard. You shouldn’t go it alone. Use these and other resources to help you find support, compassion, and understanding.

How has your invisible disability affected your life? Tell us your story in the comments. 

Image by Esparta Palma via Flickr

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