Behind Closed Doors

life with an invisible illness

Irritable Bowel Disease, like Crohn’s, is only one of numerous invisible illnesses. I would venture to say that most, if not all people, are living with an invisible illness. In 2019, NBA star Kevin Love opened up regarding his struggle with severe anxiety with his article, “Everyone is Going Through Something” One of my favorite actresses, Sarah Hyland, often shares information regarding her experience with kidney displasia and endometriosis.

Sarah Hyland on Chronic Health Issues and Suicidal Thoughts

 Whether it is mental, physical, or spiritual, most people experience a daily struggle that others can not see with the naked eye. 

Chronic pain, worry, fatigue often go unnoticed to others. But to the person struggling, it can be like a voice in your head that won’t stop screaming. Living with an invisible illness affects every part of your life and can cause major frustration in interpersonal relationships. However, there is hope to achieving a healthy quality of life!

Living with an Invisible Illness

When I set my mind to something, you best believe I am going to achieve it. Back in 2017, I dove into a new career and I thought nothing could stop me. I was achieving my quarterly goals and kicking names and taking ass! The dark side of the force could not stop me.

Avengers: Infinity War

Then I started getting sick and it made every aspect of my life a challenge. For example, I was encouraged to suck it up at work. I was a young girl that  had to learn to roll with the punches in order to build a thick skin. During the busy season, we know everyone struggles with fatigue and stress.

“Just survive until the slow season” was my mantra.

I lived in the Washington DC area, the hustle and bustle capital of America. The city rewards sleepless nights and sacrificed family time. Go-getters surround you. It’s an area ripe with a move it or lose it mentality. One misstep and a hundred millennials would pile in to take your place. The wedding industry is a beast of its own, but add environmental hustle and you got Godzilla. 

The Devil Wears Prada

Environment and work struggles were just the beginning. Creating and maintaining relationships proved to be another beast altogether. Malabsorption and no food left me with zero energy to give to my friendships. All I wanted to do in my spare time was be alone. This was unlike me. In college, I was hardly an introvert. I began to wonder what was wrong with me. The friends I did have did not fully understand what was going on and could not accept the explanation I was giving them. I couldn’t accept my own explanation. Living with an invisible illness “came in like a wrecking ball.”

This lifeless disconnection with others trickled down into my marriage. My husband confessed that he missed my former self. He claimed that I was just a shell of the former Brooke he had married. At first, these statements were harder pills to swallow than any of the horse pill supplements I was taking. After awhile, I didn’t blame him. He was right. My value as his wife was shot and I felt paralyzed to change anything.

God, Where Are Ya Bro?

I would ask God for relief. I would ask God to alleviate the symptoms. I asked God to heal me. I asked God to complete a supernatural work in my body. After about a year of what seemed like silence, I began to grow bitter. I began to entertain the idea that I was being Catfished by God. Nev, the host of the show, would look up “God’s” address and find a little man dwelling in his mother’s basement making promises He couldn’t keep.

Catfish: The TV Show.
One of my favorite things to watch!

If God “worked all things for good for those who love Him,” how was any of this good? (Romans 8:28) How was my condition helping anyone? It strained my marriage, stunted my advancement in work, and frustrated the literal crap out of me. 

I can now look back and say God was working. I may not have seen it in the moment, but looking back, He never left me. He taught me some valuable lessons, as shown below.

Hope for the Future

Coming to grips with the reality you are living with an invisible illness can be daunting. However, there is hope to improve your relationships and achieve a healthier quality of life. IN 3 EASY STEPS…jk none of this is easy. Keep reading.

  • Not everyone will understand. And that’s okay! I struggled with this truth for awhile. It often created tension in my marriage because I felt like my own husband “didn’t understand me.” At the end of the day, he doesn’t have Crohn’s disease. He will never understand. And that’s okay. But the one thing that matters to me? Empathy. He desires to understand my struggle and help the best way he can. This requires communication and patience from both of us. With that said, take time to have this transparent conversation with your loved ones. Learn to accept that they may not fully understand. Work to communicate healthy expectations from one another. 

  • Be realistic with your personal goals. At one point in my life, I was capable of running a half marathon and averaging 10,000 steps a day. I. WAS. FIT. Nowadays? I’m lucky to go on a short walk with my corgi, Scarlett, without getting winded. My body  just went through a battle scene worthy of the Oscar nominated war movie, 1917. Starting small, like adding yoga to your weekly routine, or increasing the length of a daily walk are baby steps if you are interested in having a more active lifestyle. Or not. Since my diagnosis and weight loss, being active isn’t at the top of my priority list. And that’s okay too!
Actual footage of food going through my colon
  • Remember that everyone struggles. It’s easy to enter a “woe is me” mindset, especially living with an invisible illness. However, we are all struggling with something. I’ve found it soothing to my soul to find opportunities to serve others around me. It gets me out of my head and focused on God’s work. Any act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a lasting impact! 

(Bonus: Find your support group – more to come on this topic when I discuss my first time attending a Crohn’s support group!)

Just starting out on your invisible illness journey? To get started, Click here. What is your invisible struggle? Please feel free to share your experience in the comment section below!