A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Invisible Wounds

Posted on: June 13, 2016

We’ ve all heard about criticisms levelled at people whose physical challenge wasn’t immediately obvious—arthritis or the early stages of multiple sclerosis, for example—when they used parking spaces reserved for those with a disability.

Not all pain or illness is easy to spot. But do we keep that in mind as we go about our day?

We see the driver moving too slowly in the passing lane, or the person with too many items in the express lane at the store, or the cell phone user chatting too loudly, and we assume the person is inconsiderate or uncaring of the rules or selfish.

Do we ever stop to think about what this person might be dealing with?

We’ve mentally tagged the person as obnoxious when he or she might be reeling from a personal situation: a layoff, the needs of elderly parents or young children or both, a recent health scare or an ongoing health situation, a marital crisis, financial loss, or even a combination of these.

That person might be more tense than usual when driving, unaware of how many items are in the cart, too caught up in the situation to worry about who can hear the cell phone conversation. Too wrapped up in his or her stress or pain to worry much about social graces. Too busy working to keep putting one foot in front of the other to be concerned about others’ opinions.

We can’t do anything about the behaviour of strangers, although we can work harder to keep from taking it personally and to remember that we have no idea what they might be struggling with.

As for people we know, if they’re acting out of character, we can do something. We can reach out. Invite them out for coffee. Ask how they’re really doing and whether things are okay. Offer to pray with or for them. Let them know someone cares enough to ask.

I’ve been coping with a lot of stress this year. I hide it fairly well with smiles and little jokes. And makeup. But those who know me have seen the stress and offered support—a phone call, a text, a hug, coffee and conversation—and that has made the stress a little more bearable.

Before we judge others for what seems to be simple thoughtlessness, I pray that we would take a moment to ask ourselves what they might be trying to handle that isn’t plain to see. May we pray for those whose struggle isn’t obvious, bearing in mind these words from Psalm 147:3*:

He heals the brokenhearted,

and binds up their wounds.

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)



4 Responses to "Invisible Wounds"

I’ve become more sensitive of what others might be going through since I’ve been hit with the challenges of living with myasthenia gravis and lupus over the last few years. I’ve been the impatient one in the past and I’ve been the one receiving the eye rolls or incredulous looks and comments by strangers AND former co-workers. More love and compassion are needed in this world.

Thank you for your comment. And while I know a little about lupus, I don’t know much about myasthenia gravis, but I will definitely find the time to learn more so that I can be sensitive to people dealing with it.

Thanks! June is actually Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month so you’ll find lots of stuff online about it. In a nutshell, it’s an autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes fluctuating weakness in our voluntary muscles (arms, legs, diaphragm, eyes, etc.) Oftentimes, without notice, we can have difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, breathing, walking, holding up our heads, … the list goes on. I’ve fallen down so many times I’ve lost track! I managed to break a couple of toes in one epic fall. The heat and humidity of summer and any sort of sudden stress on my body (emotional or physical) are my worst enemies. They haven’t found a cure yet. There are different paths to take to deal with some of the symptoms but none of them are 100% helpful. Some of us have to take multiple meds to just semi function on a given day. I’m on a low-dose chemo, which helps some. Every day is a new challenge for us, as it is with many others battling chronic illnesses. Okay, that was more than a nutshell. Haha! 🙂

This is so true. I used to get annoyed at people in line ups, but as I get older I find that I am sometimes that person.
Wish we lived closer so we could go out for lunch sometime. Love you

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(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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