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Visible or Invisible: Let’s Be Kind

I recently had a hip replacement surgery, and I’ve been using crutches and then a cane to get around as I recover. When I enter a room (or a grocery store or the nail salon), people’s eyes are immediately drawn to the cane or crutches, and I suppose they notice the slow pace of my walk. Most people don’t ask why I’m using them, but most people tend to be more courteous, such as holding doors for me. I get a lot of sympathetic glances, and I’ve even had comments from strangers like, “I hope you heal soon.”

Inspire more empathy

In a conversation with a family member recently who expressed concern about my pain from surgery, I made the comment that I’ve been in pain for years with this hip, and frankly, the pain now is less than it was before the procedure. His face showed surprise and compassion, and I was struck at the difference between invisible illnesses and those which are more visible.

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Disclaimer: I know there are many people who use assistive devices – crutches, canes, wheelchairs, or other tools – that experience a lack of compassion or understanding or even outright prejudice, sometimes on a daily basis. I believe society as a whole could benefit from an increase in empathy, and by sharing my story, I in no way mean to make it seem like those with more visible conditions have it easier than those of us with invisible ones.

I’ve had IBS for several years, and in the last couple years, I’ve also been dealing with the chronic pain of fibromyalgia. The post-injury osteoarthritis in my hip was the biggest source of my pain, but IBS and fibro add their share of pain, as well as other symptoms like fatigue. But all of these are invisible, and most people have no idea what I’m dealing with.

That’s one of the reasons I’m vocal about my IBS (and fibromyalgia): I believe that by sharing our stories, we can help educate others and hopefully inspire more empathy.

What the world could be like

My friend TK Sellman who lives with another invisible illness – multiple sclerosis – recently posted on Facebook how we all need to be kind, especially to those who are dealing with health issues. She remarked how some people have good health even when they take crappy care of themselves, and others who make every proper health decision are still chronically ill. “Good health isn’t a moral measure of character or the result of poor life choices, but a measure of dumb luck and circumstance,” she wrote.

Through my own experiences as well as getting to meet and know others who are dealing with incredible challenges, I have become much more aware (or more aware of how much I don’t know) and compassionate about what others are dealing with. We can’t know just from someone’s appearance what heavy burdens they may be carrying, what challenges they are facing, or how much effort it may be taxing them to do daily, seemingly simple tasks. What would the world be like if we approached others with curiosity and kindness, rather than rush to judgment and impatience?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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