The clients that come into the Balance + Concussion Center are not wearing splints or slings, there are no new surgical scars, there are no glaring signs of injury. By looking at our clients as they sit and wait for their appointment, it would be easy to assume that there is nothing wrong with them. These people have what we refer to as an ‘invisible illness.’ We can not see many disorders of the vestibular system or the brain unless we specifically are looking for them.
People with these invisible illnesses often experience chronic, debilitating symptoms including vertigo (spinning), imbalance, brain fog, lightheadedness, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, ear pain, headache, rocking or swaying sensation and difficulty concentrating (among other things). Their symptoms may be caused by damage to their inner ear, concussions, migraines, or a multitude of other disorders. But, because these people often look fine, other people (like family members, friends, and coworkers) assume that nothing is wrong with them.
In addition to physical therapy, medications and doctor’s visits, part of the recovery and treatment process for these clients often includes justification of their symptoms to others and education about their disorder to others. This can add an additional layer of stress and anxiety which impairs healing, particularly when they feel that their support system is not understanding of their challenges.
What can you do if you are someone with an Invisible Illness? First, it is important to make sure that you are receiving the proper medical care that you need for your disorder. Be the best advocate for yourself to ensure that you surround yourself with a medical team who understands you, where you are at right now, and how to get you to meet your goals. The same goes for your support system. Make sure that you find a team of family and friends that are supportive of your journey through your invisible illness. Understanding your invisible illness will help you educate others about your invisible illness, so be sure to ask your healthcare provider all of your questions!
If you are not sure where to start, reach out to us! We have a support group for individuals with Invisible Illnesses here at the Smith Balance + Concussion Center. We can also help guide you toward resources that will help you feel better and get the support that you need!