Invisible No More

Dr. Rona Maglian, PsyD on Oct 20, 2022 in Mood and Feelings

Dealing with a chronic condition can feel isolating, and hopes for feeling better can feel useless. Individuals who experience chronic pain or illness understand what it's like to live with a health condition that is not so easily explainable to loved ones, friends, or coworkers. Folks with chronic conditions also often feel frustrated that they even have to explain or justify themselves to others at all! When living with an "invisible illness," it's easy to feel like one is "just complaining" or to fear being seen as weak or fragile... because oftentimes, other people just don't get it.

Community care is essential for healing chronic pain and illness, and here's why:

1) DECREASES DEPRESSION. Being with others who can empathize (not just sympathize) with living with chronic conditions decreases loneliness and suffering. Feeling isolated and helpless often leads to experiencing depression. Find people who understand that it's okay and normal to have bad days.

2) YOUR COMPLAINTS ARE DEFINITELY VALID. Your illness is only "invisible" to those who don't experience chronic conditions. There are plenty of people who DO get it. Feeling supported, understood, and validated by people who are in similar situations can help facilitate healing in the mind and body.

3) COMPASSIONATE HEALING. Having opportunities to offer compassion and empathy to others helps boost serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that help facilitate happiness, connection, and a rewarding feeling. These create an internal pain relief source (endogenous analgesic) for the brain and body that decreases pain sensitivity and intensity.

When dealing with chronic conditions, making the "invisible" visible is so important for healing. Talking about it actually helps! The body needs a release to make space for *actual healing.* Finding others who understand just how hard things can get can help the pain feel more manageable. And more than that, empathy and accountability (from self and others) can be vital tools for building a meaningful life where you can still thrive.

Dr. Rona Maglian is a Psychologist in Orange County, CA.

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