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But You LOOK Good!
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A Guide to Ministering to Believers Living With Chronic Illness and Pain.
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This article contains excerpts from:
But They LOOK So Good!
-The Paradox of Looking Good,
but Feeling Bad-
Copyright © 2004
The Invisible Disabilities Advocate
urprisingly, more than 125 million Americans have at least one chronic
condition. Nearly half have more than one. An illness or injury is considered
chronic, when it lasts a year or longer, limits activity and may require ongoing
Not everyone with a chronic
illness has the same symptoms or degree of symptoms. Some
have mild complications and with a little adjustment in their diets or
schedules, they can lead a pretty “normal” life. Some have to make bigger
changes, sacrificing various activities or their work situations in order to
contend with their conditions. Others become
so ill they are unable to work at all and struggle
just to meet life’s daily needs.
Just about every one of us has experienced being so sick we had to stay home from work or school, because we were too sick to go. We hate being sick, because the time ticks by, the work piles up and we cannot do anything about it. We gripe and moan that we “don’t have time to be sick!” even for just a day. It is just plain miserable to be sick, in pain and debilitated - nobody enjoys it.
Often when we come across
someone who says they have been sick and in pain for a long time, we might think
they are either exaggerating or they are not doing something about
it. After all, when we got sick, we got some rest, took some medication and were
soon back on our feet. Moreover, when we were sick, we were pale and droopy, but
they often look “perfectly normal.”
is, most chronic conditions cannot be seen with the naked eye, but nevertheless
are persistently keeping the person from enjoying life the way they once knew.
For instance, a person can battle extreme fatigue and/or cognitive impairments on
the inside, even though they may appear healthy and well on the
outside. Just the same, a person can have horrible pain and/or dizziness, despite the fact
that to the onlooker they may look strong and able.
The biggest grievance those
with chronic conditions have is that their loved ones often do not believe
what they are going through is real, because to others they “look
good.” Sadly, this makes the person feel as if they are being called a liar
or a wimp. This can cause great strains on relationships between friends,
family members and spouses. Ironically, those with chronic conditions would like
nothing more than to gain complete control of their lives and not have to adjust
to any limitations at all! Nonetheless, their bodies do not always cooperate
with their desires, no matter how much they want it to.
Regrettably, a travesty
occurs when the person not only has to contend with no longer being able to do
what they love to do, but also has to battle for their loved one's belief,
respect and understanding. While the person with the illness/pain is mourning
their loss of ability and freedom, others often accuse them
of just being lazy or malingering.
We must resist the temptation to make a visual
diagnosis by coming to the conclusion that our loved one must be embellishing
their situation or trying to pull the wool over our eyes, because to us
they “look fine.” After all, when we rebut what they are telling us
with, "But you LOOK good," our friend really hears, "But,
I don’t believe you, because I can’t see it."
Frankly, it is impossible
for us to be compassionate, until we have acknowledged there is a
situation for which to be compassionate! In other words, how can we say,
“I am sorry you are sick,” when we are always saying, “I do not believe
you are sick, because you don’t look sick?”
People with chronic conditions do not want to give up! They make efforts to laugh, smile, look their best and enjoy life, even though they know they will pay dearly for it. Because of this, we should not confuse their endeavors to live life and be positive, with assuming they are feeling well or doing better. Instead, let us commend them for their incredible courage, perseverance and persistence that make their illnesses and injuries seem invisible to us.
Copyright © 2004 The Invisible Disabilities Advocate
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"The devil comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it in full" (John 10:10).
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