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What You Would See If You Look Beyond the Surface of Those With Invisible Illness

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Can you see people? I mean, really see them? Can you see beyond their clothes, their accessories, their hair? Can you see beneath the surface? Can you see the wounds they are trying to hide? Can you see the person they long to be?

No, it’s not always possible to see who a person really is. But sometimes it’s not so hard. Sometimes it’s hidden in their eyes, the entrance to their person. Sometimes it’s hidden not so well on their skin. Wounds and scars are telling their story.

We once helped a young girl who had crashed her car right in front of my parents home. A handful of strangers pulled her from the smoking car before it went up in flames. My grandpa, 86 years old, jumped in a ditch to help her out so she didn’t fall in the ditch. My father with severe back problems ran to get a fire extinguisher. I had called 911 while I ran to get to her. A stranger pulled over to help. She thought quickly and grabbed the young girl’s purse and phone before it was too late. From afar I observed strangers working together with their hearts fully exposed on their sleeves. I saw love. I saw hope. I saw beauty amidst a disaster.

Once she was out of the car she sat quietly next to me. We wrapped her in a blanket to help keep her warm until the ambulance arrived. I was able to find out who her dad was and called them from her cell phone. As we waited I saw her. I saw her pain. I saw her anguish. I saw the scars that covered each arm. Suddenly I saw so much more than everyone else did. I saw a young girl crying out for help. No one else in my family noticed her scars. I rubbed her back to keep her warm and comforted. The sheriff arrived not a second too late. It was as if I was watching a movie — my dad held off the flames with his small kitchen fire extinguisher for as long as it was going to last. The sheriff barely had time to put his car in park as her car turned into one big flame. And just like that, he put it out. Firemen arrived and they finished the job, completely soaking her car. Completely ruined. I looked around and realized the stranger that pulled over to help initially was gone, the one who saved her purse and phone for her. Where did she go? In a moment she slipped away without a word.

The EMTs arrived. Their attention was immediately for this wounded girl wrapped in the blanket in my parents’ driveway. I told them who her parents were and the EMT quickly “saw” her. He saw her arms. I felt a feeling in my throat, in my chest and found myself fighting back tears the whole time. I could only imagine the kind of pain she has felt in her life. The EMT asked her if she was on depression medication. I almost felt a bit of relief. I thought, He sees her. He doesn’t just see a young girl in an accident. He saw more. He saw what I had been seeing the whole time.

I often think of her. As I’m out and about in town there are times I think I “see” her. But I haven’t seen her since the accident. But she is on my mind.

It makes me wonder what people “see” from me. Can they see who I really am? Or do they just see the makeup I use to hide how I really feel both physically and emotionally?

photo of ashley creveling

Do they only see the pretty necklace which I put on as a beautiful distraction, or do they see into my eyes? Do they see that I am sick, exhausted and just over it all?

When I park in an accessible spot, I know what they see is a young girl with perfectly capable legs. They can’t see into my purse and all the medications I have to take daily and have on hand just in case. They can’t see my heart racing from just walking. They can’t see that my legs are weak and feel like Jell-O. They can’t see the pain that is traveling through my body. Yet, I can feel their eyes on my back as I exit or enter my car. They just don’t see what’s below the surface. Unfortunately, so many people are just as stressed out and overwhelmed with life.

In a hurry to get somewhere, in a hurry to hurry-up-and-wait for answers to their life. Deadlines and expectations leave them going through the motions.

I have always tried to see beyond the surface. I feel like my eyes are often an X-ray into a person’s soul. That sounds dramatic, yes, but honestly, there is often not much one can hide from me, except for when I allow my heart to not see it.

And then I am left kicking myself later because I could see it, but I just didn’t want to. Hindsight is 20/20. It is so perfectly clear. But if we try we can usually see it sooner. If we look, if we stop. Take in what’s around you. Observe quietly. In a moment everything will be so clear that it might hurt. It might take your breath away to actually see what you can when you stop and really try.

You might see beauty that you’ve been missing for long. You might see something that will break your heart. You might see a soul that is hurting. You might see a soul that is slipping away from you. You might look away. You might stare a little longer. It’s amazing what you can see when you allow yourself to.

Originally published: August 19, 2016
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