Invisible

 

I love working in Photoshop; in fact, it is one of my favorite parts of my job. I get to take images and pull out the beauty from them, add text or graphics, and create. The way the program works though took me a while to get used to since it is very much unlike how I learned to create art by hand. The program uses layers to manipulate the images and that pull together at the end to create a finished product.

It’s eerily reminiscent of life in general. We don’t see all the layers of a person’s life at first glance, just the sum of everything. It’s even possible for us to turn off a layer so it isn’t immediately visible to those around us.

I’ve been feeling like one of my layers has been turned off: my fibromyalgia. It’s in the class of illnesses that is called invisible illness, because while I look healthy, it’s something that permeates my life.

We all have invisible layers. It might be like a disease like mine, maybe even fibro, or something else you struggle with or something you try to hide.

It’s what makes authenticity so hard. We might voluntarily turn these layers off for a little bit because we want to enjoy feeling “normal” for a little bit (despite the fact there really is no such thing); it’s perfectly natural to want a respite from an aspect of our life that filters everything else.

It’s also what makes it really hard for people to understand, especially in the case of chronic illness.

Most people don’t see me when I’m sick and having bad days. Those are spent at home, resting, and in pain. They see me when I’m out, but they don’t see how I pay for it later.

Admittedly, I overdid it this weekend. I had a great time Saturday hanging out, but I was spent by the time I got home. I started volunteering again at church on Sundays so I was exhausted afterwards and had to sleep. Pain keeps me awake at night often so vicious cycles often ensue: I came down sick.

I say all this not to complain- not at all! I’m saying it because I think it is something really important for us to talk about more. We live in a time when the CDC says one in two people have a chronic illness. Autism levels are still climbing and we doubt they will peak anytime soon. Learning disabilities, addictions, difficult pasts, and hidden stresses are all things we can’t necessarily see on our friends’ faces. This doesn’t mean they aren’t there though.

We can’t afford to act like they aren’t.

I routinely get glares from people who think I should be able to do more. Just this week someone decided to sit with his blinker on, signaling that he wanted the parking space next to me. The problem is that I was loading my toddler and preschooler into the car and groceries so my door was open. So rather than getting the next available space only about five stalls away, he kept inching forward hoping, I suppose, to get me to move faster.

I hate inconveniencing people so I hurried, but seriously, I shouldn’t have. I put more stress on my joints so that evening walking was really painful.

I think this world would be a much better place if we assumed the person who is inconveniencing us has a legitimate reason for doing so… especially if we can’t see it.

Because when we don’t, they feel even more invisible.

Because these invisible layers seem to become the only relevant layers in our lives some days. Painful.

It is so ironic that pain tends to isolate us since we all experience it. Every single one of us.

The answer is compassion. We need to espouse the same degree of concern for others like Jesus had when He told the disciples to let the children come to Him, when He ate with the tax collectors and downtrodden of the day, and when he picked for His inner circles those who were of no particular importance. Jesus valued people. He valued them enough to die for them. Our inconvenience pales in comparison.

I’m sure we all know people who are hurting right now, even if they aren’t showing it. In spite of invisible illness and pain, we need to make everyone feel visible.

If only it was as easy as it is in Photoshop where all it takes is a click of a button. It’s worth it though: Jesus definitely thought so.

If you know someone who struggles with an invisible illness, I know it would make them feel so loved if you ask how you can support them; prayers, friendship, even just someone to be normal with for awhile are so appreciated. If you have one, feel free to share this and start a discussion. I’ve seen amazing communities develop this way just beginning by turning all the layers on.

 

Thanks so much for stopping by! I’m excited to announce that I finally have set up a Facebook page for Uncommon Grace! I’d love to have you Like it here! Thank you!

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18 thoughts on “Invisible

  1. Was just reading today where Paul was talking to TImothy about suffering and making it worth it because of the advancement of the gospel. It took a while to figure out how that could relate to my day to day life, dealing with fibro, like you, and bipolar disorder, another disease that can be pretty invisible, at least, until its not.
    Because day to day, I am not in prison because of my fearless sharing the gospel, and I haven’t even talked to another person outside my family today. So, where does that come in with kids, and day to day life?
    I’ve noticed that Jillian will sometimes hold her back when she is getting out of bed, and every night my girls ask me to say the Lord’s prayer with them. (This is something we have started doing, holding hands, after each of my Thursday morning bible studies) And even though it uses words like art in heaven, and thy will, and trespasses, my girls want to say it because I say it. Katie talks about John 3:16 because that is a verse I have shared with her since she was about 2 years old.
    And none if this is on me. This is Jesus working through me, His power being made perfect in my weakness of parenting. But I minister to these little ones, and whether they sing along with christian band Skillet, or non so christian band Within Temptation, they pick up on what I love, and how I act.
    And sometimes I act no so great when in pain. It makes me more prone to snap at them, or not want to get up when I finally plop down in my chair and they ask for the fifth snack or drink of the afternoon. But if that were a stranger, I would suck up my pain and get up without complaint. So I need to keep waiting for God to perfect his patience through my pain… But I still not sure how to be more vulnerable with others, to show them my pain at times, so that maybe they feel less alone with theirs…

    • You are such a good mom, Brandi, and I feel so blessed to have you as a friend! I’m so inspired by how sweet you are even with how much I know you deal with. Katie and Jillian are so lucky to have you! I’ve been amazed too seeing the compassion and empathy our boys are learning from living with me; I know having a mom with chronic illness is something we’d never choose for our kids, but God is so good in spite of our weakness and will use this pain for His plan. It is so hard in the midst of it though! I struggle too with being vulnerable since some people are safe and some aren’t. It is so devastating and isolating to be judged after being vulnerable about the not so pretty aspects of our lives and limited abilities. I wish this wasn’t the case and yet, ironically, I think some of these people are the ones who most need to hear it since it is the only way they will come to understand or realize their own struggles aren’t something that needs to be hidden either. We should talk about this more! I so appreciate your vulnerability with me!

  2. May we have compassion and follow Christ’s command to love one another as He loves us. In today’s hurried world, may we take the time to see others as He sees them. Thanks for the beautiful post! Linked up with you at Mommy Moments — hope you’ll stop by Saved by Grace for a visit!
    God bless,
    Laurie

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Laurie! You make a great point that we really need to slow down in order to love one another. If we get carried away by our busy-ness, it is nearly impossible to see others as Christ see them. Can’t wait to check out your site!

  3. “Learning disabilities, addictions, difficult pasts, and hidden stresses are all things we can’t necessarily see on our friends’ faces. ” This is so true and all the more reason we need compassion. We all do a good job hiding our layers because we don’t want others to see. I think as you said it is one reason authenticity is so hard. Oh that God would give us the compassion we need to love as He loved. Sometimes we are afraid to peel off the layers, afraid of what others will think. I pray that we all can be authentic and willing to reach out to others, to be more understanding when someone seems to inconvenience us. Maybe they just need a helping hand or someone to understand. Thanks for sharing your heart here! May God bless you! I’m your neighbor at the #raralinkup.

    • I’m so glad you came to visit! I wish we could be far more encouraging as a community for people to reach out; it really would be a beautiful thing. It is definitely a scary thing to peel back the layers as you said and my prayer is that we’d be more secure in our identities in Christ to make this feel far less threatening. It is terribly scary to be vulnerable when we are finding too much of our worth in others’ judgments. Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom!

  4. It feels like you wrote my story. Your words tell my story almost exactly. Living with chronic illness puts us in a unique place. I am learning to see others differently. I find myself wondering why someone treated me the way they did and wonder what pain they are living with at that moment. Fibromyalgia is hard to live with each day. I too find I want to pretend I am not sick and just let everyone see the “strong” side but the price for such behavior is high, and seems to get higher all the time. Your post is a beautiful balance of being vulnerable and building up others as well. Thank you for your post. Stopping by from the #RaRaLinkup

    • I’m so sorry to hear that you have fibro, Amy! I’m so glad you connected with this- isn’t it incredible how the impacts of chronic illness and other invisible challenges are similar no matter what our walks of life? I feel like I am constantly trying to evaluate, and re-evaluate what I can do and what I can’t and it is frustrating since it changes per day and I’m so thankful for friends who are supportive enough to be flexible with me. In a strange sort of way, having kids has made me much stronger in dealing with my limits rather than trying to push through according to other people’s expectations since I’ve realized the cost hits my kids the hardest when I get sick. I’ve realized that if I’m doing stuff because of social pressure, I’m being selfish since it really is for me instead of putting my family first. It’s hard, but I’ve tried to turn it into a conversation and be real about why I honestly can’t do something. You are so right that the price of being strong seems to get higher and higher! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sweet words and I’m so glad to connect with you! Keeping you in my prayers!

  5. Beautiful post and so true. I like the comparison to Photoshop layers, I never thought of it like that before. I have parts of my life that I hide, my insecurities and pain. Thanks so much for this post!

    • Thank you so much! It hit me the other night when I was working and merging a couple of layers together that it really would be better for us to be able live in a much more cohesive way than having our illness or struggles separated out, especially since it seems like everything else is filtered through it. I’m trying to make a point of being a person that people don’t need to hide anything from although I know I have a long way to go. I’m so glad you stopped by!

  6. You are so right! We should look at people remembering that they might be going through something. Life is not so cut and dry. We don’t know the sufferings of those around us and should not be so quick to judge. Compassion is lacking in this world. Thanks for posting this, it’s so needed. ♥

    • Thank you! You are definitely right that life isn’t nearly as cut and dry as we’d like it to be- it takes significantly more effort to know what is going on rather than just a quick glance. It’s why we grow more through our relationships than through a one-time message and such. It’s totally counter-cultural in the sense that it means we need to slow down and see people instead of viewing things through our own lenses. We can learn so much from others and find such encouragement in Christ if we are willing to live the way He did. I’m so glad to connect with you here!

  7. I like how you called them invisible layers. We all have them. I was in a bible study today, and one gal was talking about some things a friend had to “suffer” through. I thought, “I suffer through that, too.” But it’s invisible! I hide it behind other layers of “good and happy.”
    Thank you for sharing. We all need more compassion, b/c we don’t always know what someone else might be going through.

    • I’ve been in a similar situation too; I think I sometimes fall into the trap of pretending nothing is going on and saying I’m fine because to do otherwise feels too much like complaining. That’s not exactly helpful either and I think our willingness to be authentic can feel so supportive to other people who are going through similar things since they won’t feel alone in it. Thank you so much for stopping by, Dana!

  8. Wow! This is such a vulnerable and real post, and I am so glad you commented on my site so I could find yours! We all have hidden, invisible layers. Mine is my depression. I feel ashamed to share it, and yet I have been called to share it recently. The reason we have stigma and disconnection is because we are afraid to lay ourselves bare and be vulnerable. There is strength in being vulnerable, AND it keeps us connected. People shouldn’t have to carry the burden of these invisible illness all by themselves. Let’s support one another!! Thank you for sharing and being so real!

    • I’m so sorry that you are struggling with depression! You have a lot on your plate with that and you shouldn’t ever feel ashamed; I think that is so inspiring that you are sharing it! Honestly, I think the more we share, the safer it is for others to do the same and you are so right that it keeps us connected! When we are all supporting each other, it all seems so much more manageable. I totally appreciate your vulnerability too! I’m so glad that you stopped by and keeping you in my prayers!

  9. This is a great reminder to offer grace to people in all circumstances. We are not privy to the ins and outs of others’ lives. We do not know or see the silent suffering that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. I love how you say that we should believe that the person who is inconveniencing us has a good reason to do so…this is really the best thing that we can do. It’s how we can be more like Jesus.

    • Thanks so much, Laura! It’s way to easy to judge things based on our viewpoint alone; I keep praying that we’d learn to see others as Jesus sees them. We definitely need to be more like Jesus! So glad you stopped by and love your thoughts on this!

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