The Invisible Fight of Illness…

Imagine walking down a busy street.  Look at the faces of the people passing by.  Every one of those people will currently, or at some point in their past, face a battle.  Some of these battles may be visible, detectable to others, eliciting empathy and compassion.  Other battles, however are invisible; concealed from everyone else, like a deep hidden secret.  A battle that is only known by the person carrying the burden of the fight.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle...
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle…

I am one of these people whom are battling an unseen, invisible fight.  If you were to sit next to me on a bus, or train for example, you would never know that I was living with a neurological condition (although you might if I were staggering with my crutch, or on the days where my weak legs confine me to the use of my wheelchair but even then I am met with confused stares silently asking why I am in need of such aids).

The personal fight I face as a result of my neurological condition although may not be visible to others, for me however is very real.  For me it is not invisible; it is my life.  Every step is a struggle, with legs trembling so much that it feels as if they will be buckle, although no one can see.  For others, the world is still, unmoving.  For me, however, the world seems off-balance, as if everything is slightly tilted, and at other times it seems as if there is constant motion.  Everyday I fight against fatigue to do everything that everyone often takes for granted such as being able to go shopping, take a shower or cook a meal for the family.

“Living with an illness is often a balancing act between surrendering to our symptoms and fighting against them.”

Everyday is a battleground between myself and my body, however, like with any battles in history, there are times I am forced to surrender – such as those days when my legs are so weak, or the dizziness is so severe that I am unable to get out of bed, let alone stand or walk. ¬†Those days I am forced to surrender to my condition and stay confined to my bed. ¬†That’s the thing about living with a chronic illness, it is often a balancing act between surrendering to our symptoms and fighting against them.

It is not just the symptoms that we have to fight.  We also have to fight against the judgements of other people regarding our long-term health conditions.  At the start of our chronic illness journey, we are often met with understanding and compassion, friends and family make allowances for our limitations.  As time passes however, the understanding and compassion dissipates and is replaced with frustration.  Frustration at us still not being well enough to go out and take part in activities we used to before illness took over our lives.  Frustration at the chores still left untouched as illness still will not allow us to attend to them.  My parents, although often extremely supportive and understanding of my condition will sometimes feel embittered at finding certain chores left untouched after coming home from work, not realising that the day has been waived for a day on the sofa as a result of debilitating and unrelenting symptoms.  And they are unaware of this as to look at me, you only see a healthy woman.

It may seem that the neurological condition takes a large amount of space in my life, it however does not own nor control me.  Yes, it may borrow my life at times, restraining me to the four walls of this house I live in, but the condition does nor ever will take my entire life.  There are certain things that I am unable to do because of this condition; certain baggage that it has created, but there are still plenty of other things that I can and have done that I can still do.

A profound quote from Tangled!

This invisible condition may fight for control for every facet in my personal life.  Now however I have chosen to fight back, and although I have not won control for every area of my life I have chosen to control aspects of my life that I do have control over.  I have chosen to live side by side with my condition instead of merely enduring life with it.

I choose to live rather than simply survive.

Song that is on my self-care playlist
Song that is on my self-care playlist

HAWMC Day 25: Word Cloud


Welcome to the Health Activist Writer‚Äôs Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health ‚Äď a social network for all health activists. ¬†Again, I am participating in the annual Writer‚Äôs Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon¬†given prompts.

Saturday 25th April: Word Cloud 

Use Wordle¬†to make a cloud full of words that come to mind when you think of your blog, health condition, interests or community. ¬†Pro Tip: Use a thesaurus to make the branches of your ‘tree’ extend further.

Well, again this has been a post that I have completed before.  In previous years, I have used the opportunity to share all the words that I associate with myself and the neurological condition that I live with.

This year, therefore, I have decided to share the positive words that I personally associate with the spoonie community.  A community that I have personally been involved with for the past three or four years.

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 22.43.08

Alone in an invisible world…

This post is for a competition run by an organisation called Labs* by One Squat Shop together with health activist Megan Densmore.  Megan has organised a team of film-makers to make a documentary, called Invisible which highlights and raises awareness of invisible health conditions.  Lindsay Tabas of One Squat Shop has teamed up with Megan and with designer Mat Poirot have produced a limited edition t-shirt which together with the film highlights and makes people aware of the invisible symptoms that people with chronic health conditions suffer but cannot convey to others.  The competition is for one blogger (and one lucky reader) to win a copy of the film and t-shirt (or tank top for women). 

The prompt for the blog post is:

What does the t-shirt design mean to you? How does it make you feel? What does it tell people without invisible illnesses about your experience? How do you hope this will help awareness?


The word invisible conveys so many images and messages. ¬†The definition states, that invisible is something that is “not visible, withdrawn from or ought of sight or something that is not perceptible by the eye.” ¬†When I was much younger at secondary school, I thought I knew the meaning of the word as I felt completely invisible to the rest of my peers due to being continually ignored and much time spent on my own due to being ostracised. ¬†However, after living many years with a long-term health condition in which the symptoms that I live with are hidden and cannot be seen by others, I now truly know the meaning of the word.

In many ways, living with an invisible health condition, such as the neurological condition which I live with, is like living inside a bubble of which you are the only one aware of its existence.  You are unable to convey symptoms such as pain, dizziness and fatigue to those closes around you, as they are subjective and is not perceptible by anyone else.  And as those closest around you, as well as society in general are not aware of the symptoms that are ruling our lives, those with invisible chronic health conditions are very often met with suspicion and as a result people can often expect more of us than we are capable of due to ill-health.

As a result therefore, there needs to be much more awareness of invisible illnesses and the debilitating effect that they can have on the individual living with a chronic illness.  There have been fantastic awareness weeks that have been established on the internet and through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, which to some extent have raised the awareness of such conditions.  However, there could be an argument that there needs to be more done to raise awareness of invisible chronic conditions away from the internet and more emphasis for the wider society in general.  In the UK, for example, popular soap operas have been very valuable in raising awareness of a wide variety of subject matter such as HIV, domestic violence as well as raising awareness of medical conditions, many being invisible such as MS and ME as examples.


This is why this tank top¬†design may be another excellent tool to raise the profile and awareness of such illnesses. ¬†The image above shows the very eye-catching design and for those without any knowledge of such conditions it may raise important questions in their mind regarding the meaning of the design, and as the wearer of the tank top is asked about the t-shirt, it therefore allows a lesson of these prevalent invisible chronic conditions. ¬†For me the tank top¬†is a great talking point for anyone not touched by invisible illnesses such as lupus, MS or fibromyalgia as examples. ¬† Also, I am sure you would agree the tank top is also very clever with the design including the lungs as it reflects the idea of everyone being able to see inside our bodies, which in reality of course they aren’t. ¬†For anyone living with an invisible illness, we often wish that everyone around us were able to see inside our bodies; to see the damage and signs of our conditions that only exist inside of us, and to allow friends and family to visibly see the struggles and pain that are a result of our invisible illness. ¬†This tank top for me is an excellent representation of the unseen and invisible struggles that I carry around with me all the time, just as the lungs that are inside of me. ¬†And for me it does all this without being rude or condescending; it is a fun and fashionable way to raise awareness. ¬†As I live with mobility problems, as well as pain and other symptoms which are constant, these of course does not define the person that I am and for me the design perfectly reflects this – our bodies, whether healthy or crippled by illness is a reflection of ourselves, and does not define us as individuals.

I hope that the tank top design will remind individuals to not judge individuals by what they can see on the outside, but be mindful of the person beneath the surface and to be aware of the possible struggles that someone might be living with, which cannot be seen.

Here’s a 5 minute teaser for the film ‘Invisible

As ever, would love to hear all of your thoughts regarding the subject of this particular blog post.  What are your thoughts regarding the t-shirt design?


The one important component to survive a life with an invisible illness…

This post is for Invisible Illness Awareness Week (September 8th – September 15th 2014)

Imagine you are a marathon runner, struggling during the half-way mark.  You are fatigued, suffering from muscle cramps and out of breath.  However you are determined to complete the marathon and cross the finish line.  So, what spurs you onto the finish the marathon despite the pain and fatigue.  I can imagine that one thought would help is the knowledge that the end is in sight and the knowledge that the pain and fatigue will eventually end.

A life with an invisible chronic condition, however is no way alike to the marathon analogy above.  There is no knowledge that pain, fatigue or other symptoms will end when living with a chronic illness.  There is no finish line when living with an invisible chronic illness.  The question, therefore is if we do not know when the pain, fatigue or other symptoms that torments us will end then what help us get through our lives with a chronic illness?

There is no knowledge that pain or fatigue will end when living with a chronic illness (Click to Tweet)

In my opinion, one important component for surviving a life with a chronic illness is hope.


One important component for surviving a life with a chronic illness is hope (Click to Tweet)

Hope that despite living with debilitating and life-altering symptoms, that we can still lead a normal and happy life.

Hope that the symptoms will eventually ease.  Hope that one day there may be even a cure.

For those living with an invisible chronic illness, the hope that they will be believed and taking seriously as many as of you will have experienced, many are disbelieving of any disabilities or conditions because there are no outward signs of there being anything wrong.

The hope that everything will be OK.

Hope is essential in life for every person but perhaps it is more essential for those battling chronic illnesses as it is vital for pulling us out of the deep trenches of the pain, hurt and depression that living with illness can cause.  It is hope that motivates us to push forward and keep living through the difficult times.  In my experience, when my symptoms are particularly severe and perhaps am stuck in bed because I am unable to get out due to weakness, it can help therefore to believe that tomorrow will be a better day.  Maintaining hope during hardships can make it slightly less difficult to bear.

Hope is what motivates us to push forward and keep living through the difficult times (Click to Tweet)

Before the diagnosis of a chronic illness, hope is linked to the future and the plans and wishes that you have for the future.  However, after the diagnosis, the hope and wishes for the future has suddenly a colossal question mark over them.  The future is uncertain.  Due to the uncertainty of the future, hope is therefore decreased.  How do we maintain hope when the life we had known has suddenly changed?  How do we maintain hope when due to illness we experience more bad days than good?

The truth is that each moment we are in chronic pain or affected by the symptoms associated with our chronic illness, we choose our attitude towards it.  Ergo, we can choose to be negative and resentful towards our situation.  Or we can choose hope and positivity.

For example, I often used to focus on all the ways that my neurological condition limited my life.  Instead of focusing on everything that I am still able to do, I instead focused on the things that I was now unable to do.  This type of cognitive thinking not only can lead to depression and anxiety but can also make you feel inferior to your peers.  Now, I try and focus on everything that I am still able to do, and especially those that gives me joy and happiness.  It instills me with hope as well as the reminder that despite the limitations placed upon my life, that I still have things to offer the world.  Everyone reading this that like me is living with a chronic illness still has something to offer and has lots that they are still able to do despite there being things that they can no longer to do.

Illness is hard, there is no doubt about it.  From my experience, I know that trying to maintain hope can be extremely difficult as sometimes it can feel that there is nothing to be hopeful for.  But there are things out there that can be healing; things that can make you feel hope still exists even through the darkest of times.  Simple pleasures every day can help alleviate suffering from pain, nausea or fatigue.  These little pleasures does not have to be expensive or grandiose, but can be found in the simplest of things, such as watching a favourite comedy, enjoying a cup of your favourite tea, hugging a pet or listening to a favourite album.  Whatever works for you.  Try writing your favourite things down in a notebook; often when living with illness we can forget, and reminding ourselves of the fun activities we enjoy can help bring joy and hope.

To conclude, hope is just one of the components to be able to survive a life with chronic illness. ¬†Hope is the line between living a happy life despite chronic illness or being consumed by the negativity that illness can create. ¬†Letting illness consume our lives, such as focusing on the limitations that it places upon us can therefore lead us to lose our identity to our chronic invisible illness. As the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle said “As long as you make an identity for yourself our of pain, you cannot be free of it.” ¬†By choosing hope, however, we can lead a productive life filled with the pleasures that heal us and brings us joy and free from pain.

By choosing hope we can be productive and enjoy the pleasures that heal us and free us from pain (Click to Tweet)

Becoming Visible in an Invisible World…


Last week (9-15th September 2013) was National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. ¬†The idea behind this particular Awareness Week is to raise awareness of invisible chronic illnesses (which there are many!) as well as providing support to those suffering from such conditions, who may feel misunderstood by others, who often disbelieve their illness because they ‘look so good’.

What does a person with an invisible chronic illness look like?  The truth is, they look just like you or me.  Look at the person sitting next to you.  That person although may look healthy and normal , but their body may be hiding a secret.  That person could be battling a hidden illness such as fibromyalgia, ME, lupus, or MS.  They may look perfectly fine, but they may be in excruciating pain, dizzy or suffering from fatigue or other such symptoms often associated with invisible chronic conditions.

The symptoms associated with my condition such as the constant dizziness, bouts of vertigo, the trembling, stiffness and weakness in my legs are all invisible to the outside world. ¬†No one other than me feels the trembling sensations or can feel the world spinning. ¬†To look at me, I look normal, healthy. ¬†Going out the only clue would be the crutch I use; but often people assume it’s used because of a temporary injury. ¬†Often when I bump into someone I knew either from school or University days, or just a person whom I haven’t seen for a while asks “Oh, what have you done to your leg?” assuming the crutch is temporary and not because I am suffering from a permanent disability.

Nowadays, however the somewhat invisibility of my condition has become much more visible. ¬†Because of the severity of the trembling in my legs, and the fatigue that has become so much worse, I now have to use my wheelchair much more regularly. ¬†On the days where I am out with my carer, I am in my wheelchair more than I am out of it, to avoid falls and because the stiffness and trembling in my legs makes it so difficult to walk far. ¬†It’s still true that the dizziness is bad that being in the wheelchair is difficult for me, but as the falls are much more regular and the trembling is so severe that now I have learnt I have little choice but to use the wheelchair.


Me out and about in my wheelchair
Me out and about in my wheelchair



Last week, whilst out with my carer, we went to our regular coffee shop for our favourite hot drink, is when I overheard a conversation between a middle-aged couple about me. ¬†“I saw her walk a few steps before getting in the wheelchair, so she can’t really need it; she must be faking”. ¬†This unfortunately isn’t a rare statement against those with invisible chronic illnesses who occasionally need to use a wheelchair or other assistive devices. ¬†Those who are healthy can’t seem to fathom that a person can fluctuate between needing to use a wheelchair, or other assistive devices such as a crutch and feeling well enough to being without such assistive aids.

It raises interesting questions whether such awareness weeks and events are working and are successful in raising awareness of invisible chronic illnesses when there are still such prejudice and discrimination against those battling with such conditions. ¬† How can we raise awareness within the wider community and population about chronic invisible illnesses and disabilities and the impact they can have on those living with them. ¬†How can we teach others that wheelchairs are needed for not just those who are paralysed or missing limbs; that wheelchairs are not always a permanent fixture in someone’s life but can be used for certain situations or when a person experiences a flare in symptoms; a common feature with invisible chronic conditions.

During the National Invisible Chronic Awareness Week, people blogged, tweeted and shared information and took part in discussions on Facebook to raise awareness and connect with others facing similar situations but it seems that we have more work to do in educating the public, to help the end the prejudice and discrimination when those with invisible illnesses when using assistive devices as well as using disability badges…


Don’t judge others for you do not know their story…

On Wednesday at the ‘Life 4 Living‘ group that I attend, we had a very interesting seminar on Diversity. ¬†In the seminar we were split into two groups and given a laminated sheet with a picture of an island, and a deck of cards with pictures of a diverse group of people, with only their occupation listed on the cards. ¬†We were then told that a ship carrying the people on the cards was in an accident, which resulted in the ship sinking and the people being stranded in the middle of the ocean. ¬†Each group had a lifeboat – however, on the lifeboat there were only spaces for 10 people, and hence we had to decide who of those people to save and whom to leave in the water.

This was obviously very difficult as the only basis we had to make our decisions is what they looked like and their occupations. ¬†During our discussions we decided to save a doctor and nurse, to treat those with medical injuries, a carpenter to help build shelter from the bad weather, and gardener’s to help grow crops and nutrients whilst being stuck on the deserted island.

However, we soon learnt that the doctor who we chose to rescue was in fact a doctor of music and not a medical doctor.  And the nurse, was a veterinarian and so would not be very useful in treating human patients!  And the people whom we rejected, for example, the biker as we thought he looked like he would cause trouble, would in fact be extremely useful in an emergency situation as he was a surgeon.

This exercise, however, taught us how we often make judgements based on very little information causing us to make snap decisions on the type of person we are busy scrutinising. ¬†We are too busy scrutinising others; determining the type of person we believe them to be instead of seeking out the person’s story.


Many of you spoonies reading this will surely understand this; particularly those with invisible illnesses as we are often victim of others’ judgements. ¬†For example, once I went out, and forgot my crutch. ¬†Due to the problems with my balance, I was all over the place, and as a result, a woman came up to me and accused me of being drunk. ¬†I have heard many other stories, of spoonies whom have been victims of incorrect assumptions made by others – people who have been accused of misusing a disability badge, because there were no outward signs of illness or disability, and thus were labelled as being healthy, and in no need of using a disability parking bay. ¬†There are endless examples of these types of anecdotes that have been shared by spoonies everywhere. ¬†I am sure everyone reading can think of at least one example from their personal experience. ¬†Please feel free to share your experiences in the comment section below.


So, the game that we played at Life 4 Living, and through the experience of living with an invisible illness, has taught me to not make assumptions about people, without getting to know them first. ¬†To not assume that a person has no wounds, or illness because there are no scars; no signs of illness or disability as not all wounds, illnesses or disabilities are visible, many are hidden as if keeping a secret from the outside world. ¬†And as the quote above also tells us, we also shouldn’t judge so quickly or harshly as we may find ourselves walking in that person’s shoes.

Perhaps if we weren’t so quick to judge in the exercise at Life 4 Living then we may have chosen the people that would have been useful whilst being deserted on that island, instead of those we chose based on our preconceived ideas regarding their abilities and resources that they would bring.


This is a lesson that we all must learn….

HAWMC 2013 Day 24: Pinterest Board




Welcome to the Health Activist Writer‚Äôs Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health ‚Äď a social network for all health activists. Again, I am participating in the annual Writer‚Äôs Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt reads as follows:

Create a Pinterest board for your health focus.  Pin 3 things.  Share the image