in·vis·i·ble | \ (ˌ)in-ˈvi-zə-bəl \
: incapable by nature of being seen : not perceptible by vision

Uncovering the reality of illness that cannot be seen.
Many are fighting a battle seemingly unknown to those around them. Invisible illness takes many forms … and it is different for each individual.

These illnesses can include, but not limited to: cognitive impairment, mental illness and autoimmune diseases. This also includes chronic illnesses like multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, lupus and many more.

These individuals are often left with a lack of support and understanding of the struggles that they face every day.
6 out of 10
Adults diagnosed with a chronic, invisible illness
4 out of 10
Adults have two or more chronic illnesses
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a metaphor is worth a thousand pictures.
~ Daniel Pink, author, A Whole New Mind
If I was to ever give birth, I'd imagine the pain would feel something like this.
~ Natalie Barnes, 28, Endometriosis diagnosis
I've always planned my life around my period.
Natalie Barnes, 28 of Bowling Green, Kentucky was diagnosed with Endometriosis at the age of 15.
Endometriosis is described as an inflammatory disease that affects one in ten women or those who menstruate. It is caused when the lining within the uterus (endometrium) grows outside of the uterus. This can cause menstrual irregularities as well as pain in the back, abdomen, and pelvis. Typically, inflammation can occur throughout the body. Other symptoms may include: nausea, vomiting, constipation, cramping, and for some - infertility.
"It's a stabbing, pulling pain," Barnes said. "Almost like contractions - they come and go in waves."

Barnes discussed the many myths surrounding Endometriosis that she has come to learn that many people still believe.

Being diagnosed at a young age, Barnes has undergone surgery to attempt to "remove" the issue and/or lesson the symptoms. When those attempts did not work, Barnes recalled her mother sitting with her and crying - apologizing for it not being enough to take her pain away.

"It's debilitating and it can feel hopeless sometimes."

Regardless of her struggles, Barnes finds comfort in knowing that her family and husband will always be her biggest support system.

Barnes wants people to know that there are ways to get through these things. She has come to make the best of the other 3 weeks of every month and learned to enjoy every moment more and more.

After recently deciding with her husband that they wanted to conceive, Barnes is excited to announce to her friends and family that she is almost three months pregnant. The couple did not know for sure if they would be able to have a child due to Barnes' condition, however, were pleasantly surprised to be expecting so soon in their journey.
us department of health and human services
It is estimated that 157 million Americans were afflicted with a chronic illness in 2020.
mental health
Imagine having a constant shadow over you.
~ Trevor Scoggins, 22, Mental Health diagnosis
I was always told that I was too
rowdy, even for a boy.
Trevor Scoggins, 22 of Ohio County, Kentucky has struggled with mental health since his childhood.
Mental health pertains to a person's emotional, psychological and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. mental health conditions can look like depression, anxiety, and other abnormal behaviors and irregularities. These issues are often a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Treatment typically includes therapy and SSRI (serotonin "inhibitor) medications.
Scoggins struggles with depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD, ADHD, high functioning Aspergers, and auditory Tourette's.

He spent much of his younger days at River Valley Behavioral Health Center as he was unable to spend more than a year at a time at any elementary school, he said. He finds it hard to function on a daily basis with the multiple conditions that he battles.

According to Scoggins, it is often very hard to control his thoughts, feelings and actions.

"There is no one 'look' for these things. You wouldn't know that I have them," he said.

Maintaining school, work and friendships has been challenging and Scoggins said that he often finds that people still don't understand these conditions. Scoggins recently quit a job due to finding out that his coworkers were talking about him behind his back.

"I didn't want to have to go back and face them," he said. "It just didn't seem worth it."
Finding the positives in situations and focusing on the present has served to be very helpful for him. Scoggins talked about the coping mechanisms that he has developed and ways to "mask" his struggles. Listening to music, going to therapy, and practicing things such as the "yet method" are a few of the things he is doing. Scoggins also finds that beatboxing helps with his Tourettes and ADHD, and enjoys watching the therapists that he follows on TikTok.

Scoggins finds comfort in surrounding himself with like minded people and appreciating the things that make him unique.

"I have a group of people I can get together with and take my mask off and just be myself."
Please be patient. I've got about 12 trains going on up here and I'm not in charge of which one is in the front.
Mental Health
Those with chronic pain are four times more likely to struggle with mental health
It takes an individual with an invisible illness four years to receive a diagnosis
Out of 89 individuals with invisible illnesses, 97% said they received no support from those around them
SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)
It's a feeling like you've ran a marathon when you haven't even left the couch.
~ Wendy Coy, 41, Fibromyalgia diagnosis
Wendy Coy, 41 of Cromwell, Kentucky has struggled with Fibromyalgia for five years. After a work injury, Coy's health started to spiral, resulting in taking a few years off from work and ultimately undergoing a health journey that has brought her to where she is today.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body. Fibro affects the soft tissues of the body, as well as the muscles and bones. Symptoms can include fatigue, insomnia, migraines, TMJ, muscle stiffness, 'brain fog,' sensitivity to heat and cold, anxiety, and tender points on the body. Fibromyalgia can be linked to autoimmune diseases and/or central nervous system issues. Treatment typically consists of medication, physical therapy, and practices to improve quality of life.
Coy has also struggled with mental health including bipolar, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, since her early teenage years and says that her mental health and Fibro tend to play off of one another.

"Your depression and anxiety come up, and your body gets worse – you hurt already, and it makes your mental health worse. They like to work together."

Throughout her medical journey, Coy has experienced a lack of belief and support from those around her, including doctors.

"I think some family even still doubt that it's as bad as it is on my bad days."

Coy spoke on how health care professionals would often think that she was searching for pills when she attempted to seek treatment and answers.

Due to the lack of treatment options, Coy's trips to the doctors have lessoned as she has built up a "tolerance" to the pain, she said.

"There's not a whole lot of options out there for Fibromyalgia."

She often finds it hard to open up about her struggles, even with her family members, including her two sisters that also struggle with Fibro.

"We all just kind of tough it out on our own and don't talk about it much."

At the beginning of her diagnosis, and as a therapeutic way to express her feelings, Coy started a mental health and invisible illness blog to provide a platform for others struggling with unseen battles. Since going back to work and struggling with constant fatigue, Coy has been unable to continue her blog in the years following, but plans to get back into it when she can.

"People don't understand it, so they judge it."

Since learning better coping skills for her pain and making lifestyle changes, Coy was able to teach herself how to put a positive spin on things in life.

While she has accepted that she may not be able to completely rid herself of the pain she feels, Coy is working to no longer allow the weight of her illness to keep her down. She is learning how to "break the chains" of her struggles and keep moving forward regardless.
I had a doctor tell me once that I was just going to have to learn to deal with being in pain for the rest of my life.
us Census Bureau
Of all chronic conditions, 96% of them are classified as "invisible."
It just feels like pins and needles sticking you all day.
~ Charity Arnold, 42, Lupus diagnosis
Charity Arnold, 42 of Beaver Dam, Kentucky was diagnosed with Lupus nearly 12 years ago.
Lupus is an inflammatory disease caused when the immune system attacks its own healthy tissues. This disease can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, hear, and lungs. Symptoms can include: fatigue, joint pain, rash, fever, and swelling. There is currently no cure for Lupus. Patients are most often provided with pain management and practices to improve quality of life.
"Every day is hard to get up out of the bed," Arnold said.

Massive swelling of her legs, hives, inability to be in the sun or outside, migraines and many other issues have accompanied her condition. She finds it difficult to interact with he children and husband and carrying out daily tasks can often prove to be daunting.

"People think I'm faking because I don't look sick. I wish they would understand and stop judging."

Arnold quit her previous job two years ago when she found herself needing a break to cope with her pain, but found herself needing to go back due to financial struggles. Charity now works as a janitor at the Beaver Dam Walmart and has been relieved to be back to working again. Keeping her mind busy helps, but also takes a toll on her physically, she said.

"I don't know how much longer I can do this job, but I have to work," she said.

Charity has found herself worrying less about what people think and accepting those who love and care for her into her life.

"It has made me realize what I have and appreciate those things more."
I would love to get some relief some day... I probably won't.
Centers for disease control and prevention
98% of the nation's health care costs are for chronic and mental health conditions.
lyme disease
You really start to feel secluded and like you don't have a place.
~ Cindy Frames, 67, Lyme disease diagnosis
Cindy Frames, 67 of Owensboro, Kentucky suffers from chronic Lyme Disease and Alpha-gal, both of which are caused by tick bite.
Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness that can cause a multitude of symptoms for the infected person. These may include: flu-like symptoms, weakness, joint and muscle pain, swelling, weakened immune system, headaches, and much more. Alpha-gal is a recently identified type of food allergy to red meat and other products made from mammals that can cause serious reactions. Many doctors are still yet to treat/acknowledge these as official diseases.
Tick related illnesses have only recently become well known and researched. While these diseases are more prevalent in some parts of the world than others, much of the public is still unaware of the severity of the effects of even a single bite from an infected tick.

"Doctors won't listen half of the time. Getting medical help for this stuff is a joke to them," Frames said. "Some still don't know what it is."

Frames has had to travel out of state, and sometimes across the country, to find expert doctors on tick-borne illnesses that will treat and take her seriously.

"People think I'm lying about these things but how can you make this stuff up?"

Frames' immune system has become so compromised, that she barely leaves her home and feels as if she is safest when she can be secluded. She currently lives in the basement of her 87-year-old mothers house where they must take care of each other.

"It's lonely. Some days it might not feel like I have much, but I made it this far in life and God's not gonna let me down now. "
"You have to keep going, There's no other choice."
"Enjoy life while you can."
"Anyone dealing with this physical illness, you are very strong."
"Every time I say I will never be able to do this, I add a 'yet' to the end."
"I've learned how to be a fighter."

Natalie Rickman-Barnes

Trevor Scoggins

Wendy Coy

Charity Arnold

Cindy Frames

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