Chronic Illness is NOT Invisible

I have been quiet for a while, not posting in this forum, cause well nothing new happened.  I stayed at home, tried to avoid the public health system, heck, public in general and hoped everything would be alright.  It was for a while inside the comforting embrace of the walls of our family home, with my children, family, whom are mostly supportive and accommodating.  They are this way I think, because I have trained them through trial and oh, oh so much error.  And we all learnt, felt and found new ways of being together.  Ways that are supportive of my health.  Ways that I think would be supportive of other people’s mental health.  Couple of key points include that you shouldn’t treat that person like a weirdo, talk about them without them when they’re in the room (or period actually) and that supplying them with truckloads of chocolate is necessary.  And this morning’s discovery was also to NOT distribute the kind of poster I received on what to do when you friend has a chronic “invisible” illness.

This rather um, insightful resource suggested that “friends” with mental illness are prone to having a nap at any point (I imagined myself walking and collapsing into a foetal position automatic nap mid-Supermarket), are likely to cancel plans before or on the day (going to use this for next own kid’s Birthday), and that they may need to leave a party and / or social engagement early (covered).  Added to this list includes that the person may or may not be interested in the conversation with you and my personal fave: may or may not answer the telephone.  I KNOW that a lot of the above is true and I am guilty of each every single day.  But if this is the nature of some (I have seen others) of the correspondence to the world on how to be more what, um, accommodating (?) of people with chronic “invisible” illness the message is WRONG and I think it makes the situation worse for those who do and contributes to erasing us even more.

Anyone who has lived with anyone who has chronic mental illness knows that IT IS NOT INVISIBLE.  And when it is, and when the signs above are shown, it’s not about accommodating me.  It’s about HELP.  I need you to actively enquire about how I am, what you can do, not shrug it off and take it seriously.   I and anyone who has it, does not choose to operate like a toddler coming off a sugar high requiring a nap.  And importantly, please don’t treat me like one, or think that raising your voice will help me hear / respond more clearly / appropriately.  No.  It doesn’t and makes it worse.   Create the environment where I will be ok.  Fight for the environment where people like me, like you, need not be afraid of how we will be treated or perceived.  Where we don’t need posters emphasising the symptoms of our suffering instead of our strength.

Help me see the things I am, the things I can be, and to savour the sunshine however fleeting it may be. Celebrate that I have depthless empathy,  that I love deeply, care greatly and can sometimes laugh loudly.  Laugh with me.  Celebrate the things that I do DO, not things the things I don’t.  Push past, push down, forward and back, but ensure that messaging about mental illness, chronic illness ensures that we are not anymore invisible than we already have been and are. Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.