Do You Have an Invisible Illness? Join Me on Tuesday!
“But you don’t look sick.”

Yeah. I’ve heard that one before. Have you?

There’s migraine. Fibromyalgia. Lupus. The pain and autoimmune problems aren’t immediately visible.

Within the mental health spectrum, there’s panic disorder. There’s depression. There’s bipolar disorder, PTSD, and OCD.

It’s not easy for others to visually see our suffering. But just because an illness isn’t showing doesn’t mean it’s not legitimate!


When I have a bad migraine, the only overt evidence of my suffering is the pair of sunglasses I’m probably wearing indoors. Also, I tend to walk very lightly on my tiptoes in a futile attempt to suppress the gnawing, throbbing, and stabbing pain on the right side of my skull. But a big pair of sunglasses coupled with a delicate walk? I look more like some cross between a drunk ballerina and a celebrity-in-hiding. I don’t look like I’m suffering.

It’s the same thing with panic: if I have an attack in the middle of the grocery store, there’s no good visual indicator that I’m suffering. Sure, I’ll probably abandon my cart and walk quickly toward the exit — but how does that make me different than any other woman who has forgotten her wallet in the car?

If I have a panic attack at work, I leave my desk, walk down a long hallway with shaky limbs and chattery teeth, and head for the safety of my car. How does that make me different from a caffeinated woman who really needs a smoke break?

No one can see my racing heart. No one can see my adrenaline rush. No one can see my shortness of breath.

Has anyone ever accused you of malingering — that is, faking sick? It’s all too common for those of us with illnesses that can’t easily be detected by the untrained everyman.

I have. And I’ll bet you have, too.


This week (from September 10th through the 16th) is National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. is hosting a virtual conference this week with a wide variety of speakers that you can listen to from your home computer. Check out the lineup here.

Tomorrow, I’ll be taking part in WegoHealth‘s Roundtable discussion on the topic of invisible illness. From WEGO:

We’re hosting a special #HAchat and Roundtable combination – featuring a live chat with panelists from a variety of health communities alongside our Twitter chat. The “invisible illness” umbrella is wide and, perhaps, by coming together across conditions – we can unearth similarities and do more. We can build towards a camaraderie that will reach beyond our own individual communities and connect us together as Health Activists working toward the same goal.

Whether you consider yourself a health activist or not, please consider joining us. Come and share information about your condition (or condition of a loved one) and meet others who share your struggles. Again, from WEGO, here are the details:

Our Invisible Illness #HAchat will be on Tuesday, September 11th at 3pm ET. You can join by tweeting with the hashtag #HAchat or by logging into It’s going to be a powerful discussion and we can’t wait to hear what you and our panelists have to say on this important topic!

If you’d like to listen in on the audio portion of the chat, you can log in here just before 3 pm ET:

Hope to see/hear/chat with some of you there!

And finally, here’s Lisa Copen of with an introduction to more of the week’s events:

Creative Commons License photo credit: Auntie P