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My New Year’s Wish as a Person With an Invisible Illness

Wishes for happiness and peace are all around during the holiday season. We see them in commercials and embossed on cards. Health, wealth and happiness seem to be the go-to wishes, and it’s easy to see why. We all want our friends and loved ones, even complete strangers, to have these things.

For those with an invisible illness, I have one more holiday wish: visibility.

Too often, those around us aren’t sure how to deal with an invisible illness. They want to make us feel better, and yet, they don’t know how. So it seems they wish we would stay invisible, so they don’t have to deal with their own indecisiveness and uncertainty.

We try to encourage them. We try to show them there’s nothing to be afraid of, and that their awkwardness is natural and something we can overcome together. Yet, as someone with fibromyalgia, I’ve learned that it’s easier to stay hidden, and so have my fellow invisible illness warriors.

As we head into 2017, there are a multitude of reasons why we would want to stay invisible. There’s a president-elect who has openly mocked disabled individuals. Health care is under assault on many fronts. We don’t want to say anything or stand out. We don’t want to make noise in case our jobs are taken away from us and our lives are thrown into chaos.

In spite of this, I wish you the strength to remain visible. For we cannot battle the stigma of our invisible illness by remaining hidden. We cannot work to help people understand what chronic pain is like by staying invisible. Our own physical and emotional health is improved when we’re seen, when our pain is acknowledged and when we’re understood.

My desire for visibility comes from the fact that all individuals with invisible illnesses, regardless of the type or severity, deserve to be seen. We deserve to be acknowledged. And we deserve to be heard. So for 2017, I wish you to be seen, heard, loved and understood. In this way, may all of us receive this same validation, and together, we can move forward to improve our own lives as well as those around us.

Here’s to a visible year!

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