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Just Because You Can’t See it Doesn’t Mean it Isn’t There

I’m having one of those days again. The sad part is, I haven’t had one of these days for a while and I had been hoping I wouldn’t have a day like today particularly this week when I have a lot to accomplish.

You see, I have one of those invisible diseases. One of those diseases people think you’ve made up just because you want attention or because you want to get out of doing something. Believe me, that’s not the case. I did not choose to have this disease and I’d do anything to get rid of it, but there is no cure….once you have it, it’s always there with you.

Arthritis. There, now you know what I’m referring to. Arthritis loosely translated is “an inflammation of joints”. What this little word doesn’t tell you is everything that goes with that “inflammation of joints.” It doesn’t tell you about the stigma of having an “invisible disease”, nor does it tell you about the excruciating pain that comes with this disease no one can see.

Everyone tries to be helpful…..”You just need to rest more.” (I could sleep and lay around all day and all that would do for me is make me stiffer.)…..”You just need to lose a little weight, that’ll help.” (Some days it’s all I can do to walk across the room….the stamina to excercise is just not there.)….”Maybe if you took Tylenol.” (I could pop an M&M and get just as much relief.) So many “helpful” hints given, all with good intentions, but most of them have been tried or just not an option.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate everyone’s concern, but there are times when I just wish someone would just say something like, “I’ll pray for you,” or “Can I give you a hug?” Those things would do so much more than advice no matter how sincere it is.

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Yes, today was one of those days. One of those days where I wasn’t sure my legs would hold me up until I got across the room. A day when my knees snapped, crackled and popped louder than my breakfast cereal. A day when my arthritis med worked as well as tic tac would for pain. A day where I just wanted to lay in bed and cry because I hurt so bad. But, I didn’t do that….I kept going despite the pain and hurt.

Some people say, “You look fine to me.” It’s those times I would love to be able to let them feel what I feel and experience what I experience. They wouldn’t be so quick to say, “You look fine.” I wish people would understand that when I ask for a chair because I need to sit down it isn’t because I’m lazy…..it’s because I’m hurting and my knees feel like they’re about to give out. I wish they would understand why I can’t walk as fast as they can and perhaps slow their pace to keep up with me so I don’t feel like the slow poke of the bunch. I wish that even my doctor would be more understanding. He tries to help relieve my pain. But when he asks me if he could decrease the dose of medication or try something else like an over-the-counter medication (all of which do nothing for the pain), I wish he wouldn’t look at me like I’m a drug-addict when I say, “no, I can’t.” I’ve tried going without my medication….I can’t make it more than a day without it.   I wish when I use my handicap placard at the grocery store and get out of my van that people wouldn’t look at me as though they were disgusted because I’m “obviously not handicapped.” I wish those same people would ignore me when I chose to use an electric grocery cart because I can’t walk through the entire store.

Oh, there are many that understand. In fact, the other day at the grocery store, a lady saw me looking at the shelves of food. She stopped beside my “scooter” and said, “Can I reach something for you?” I thanked her, but declined (what I needed was right in front of me). I saw her often through the store, she was much older than me, old enough to be my mother. She was so polite and offered to let me go ahead of her many times. Even at the check out, she offered me the spot in front of her. I thanked her for being so nice, since so many people aren’t. She said, “It’s nothing. I would want people to do the same for me. I have many friends with arthritis and mobility issues. It’s hard.” Wow! Here was a person who got it! Even though she couldn’t see my disease, she knew. I wish there were more people like her.

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I have many friends who suffer from these invisible diseases….Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, or worse yet, cancer….just to name a few. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It’s real…very real.

But I have hope. I have hope that once I reach age 50, I might be able to get a knee replacement(s) because health insurance will then deem me “old enough” to have the surgery. I have hope that God can heal even chronic and debilitating diseases such as this (and honestly, in past months, He has given me more good days than bad!). I have hope that when I do get to heaven, there will be no more canes, no more electric grocery carts, no more pain meds, no more handicaped placards, and no more ignorance.

The apostle Paul knew about suffering. After all, he had a “thorn in the flesh.” But Paul also wrote in Romans 8:18  “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” I think he wanted us to know that we don’t have dwell on our suffering and pain. We should dwell on what God can and will do for us. That’s difficult to do when you’re having a bad “invisible disease” day, but I think it’s exactly the medicine that might be the best for us.

♥Miriam

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