I recently wrote a blog post about the “Spoon Theory”. That is a way for people with disabilities to explain how they allocate their energy during each day. I got a lot of positive feedback on that post and wanted to further expand it to ways to support people with invisible disabilities.
1. Never say “But you look fine.”. You may mean it as a compliment but to a person struggling in pain in can be instead construed as invalidating. Looking okay to the world and feeling okay in side are two very different things.
2. Offer advice judiciously. Everyone has access to Google. That means whatever diet or exercise plan that, you have read about that cures these illnesses the person with it has read also. Healthy living is good for everyone, but most of these illnesses do not have a cure. Hearing about such things can again come across as a judgment. The person hears that if they had only done this thing they would be okay. This is something they have thought about and they are trying to live the best they can so be careful with the advice.
3. Be flexible. When you are living in chronic pain or with fatigue you don’t know how you will feel day to day and sometimes minute to minute. It is hard to make plans that way and many people just stop doing it because they don’t want to cancel at the last minute. Let people know that you are okay with being flexible in regards to the plans. If they can’t go out offer to come over to their house. It can feel very isolating to live with an invisible disability so any way you can connect with people is great.
4. Ask them. What you can do for them or what they need. Many people can be prideful about asking for help but if they know you mean it maybe then they can ask for things. Ask them what is hard in particular and see if there is something you can do to help.