I look healthy. My friend, whom I’ll call Gail, also looks healthy. The difference is that I suffer from a physical illness and she suffers from a mental illness: depression. The similarity is that both of our conditions are invisible to others.
Despite the different source of our illnesses, our lives are parallel in several ways. I want badly to be able to go places and to socialize, especially at night when visiting with others is often at its richest. But I can’t. My body’s limitations keep me housebound. And Gail? Her body doesn’t keep her from these activities, but her emotional state does. She finds it hard to leave the house. She finds it hard to socialize. Some days, she wants to curl in a ball and stay in bed. I do that too, but for a different reason.
The fact that both of our conditions are invisible to everyone but those we’re closest too imposes many of the same burdens on us. This piece will discuss four of them.
1. How to manage others’ expectations…and how much to share with them.
This can be a major problem during the holidays and at family gatherings. We may be suffering terribly, even though we look fine. As a result, people may expect us to pitch in more and be more social, but it’s not healthy for us to put ourselves in a situation where we’re forced to do things that make us feel worse physically or emotionally.