I have to say that having bad joints is definitely and INVISIBLE ILLNESS! Yes there are days when I am limping and there are days where some of my joints try to become radiators but on the whole to my friends and family I look “normal”, or as normal as I can be (I admit I am a bit weird).
I try not to let on to people that I am in pain because I really don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I live in chronic pain, but also because I don’t think that I can cope with the comments that people who aren’t in CHRONIC PAIN say… “Oh my knee gets sore sometimes too”, “my [insert a ridiculously distant relative] has that too and they are fine”, “you don’t look sick” and the list goes on.
Sometimes, to see how someone actually feels, i.e are they in pain, you have to look for the more subtle clues. For example, when my hands are sore my handwriting can be almost illegible.
[the writing on the left is my writing today, it clearly shows that something is going on especially when you compare it to my normal writing on the right. Unfortunately many people miss the subtle clues to illness and so they can be pretty oblivious to illnesses that are all around them]
I did get quite annoyed at some of my friends today, I try not to because they can’t understand, but sometimes everything gets a bit much. We were in Poundland, a shop that sells everything for £1, and straight away I was drawn to all the medical supplies. This was mainly because I am in desperate need of some more plasters (I like to have a large stock since you never know when you are going to need them) and I was also needing alcohol wipes and some latex-free disposable gloves. So I was basically wanting to re-stock my first aid kit (I carry around a makeshift kit of bits and bobs that have and might be of use in emergencies). However there was a tube of ibuprofen gel which works quite well when my joints are tender, although taking ibuprofen pills do nothing for me. I was going to buy this tube of gel but my friends started nagging saying that I don’t really need it etc.
That’s especially what irritated me, they presumed that because I wasn’t limping or complaining I was not in pain. WRONG! I was in a fair amount of pain, probably about a 6 on the scale. My thumb was extremely stiff, my knee was still red from overdoing it at the weekend, my ankle was puffy and my hip was also a lovely pink colour. Just because I do not look sick, does not mean that I am well.
Anyway this resulted in my buying the ibuprofen gel from a different shop to avoid the nagging of my friends.
If friends can’t understand then really who can? I’ve been very fortunate in the fact that I have found a really good community of people on Facebook and twitter who are going through a similar situation to me, which means that I do have people to speak to. And these people understand how “blunt” people without invisible illnesses can be. But I think I would do good in reminding myself more often, that many people without chronic illnesses, have never seen an invisible illness (hence the invisible) and so can not relate to how we feel.