Oftentimes we only see the negative side of living with an illness that invisible to most people. But as time progresses, so does my own illness, rheumatoid arthritis. I can now see that there are advantages to having an illness that can be hidden or revealed, based on one's own desires or certain circumstances.
I don't notice the changes in my feet or hands very often unless I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror as I brush my teeth or try on clothes in a store's dressing room. I've heard a few children say, as they looked under the dividers of a dressing room, "Mom, what is wrong with her toes? Look at her feet!" There are times I wonder how anyone could look at my hands and not wonder what is wrong with them.
Farrah Fawcett had a documentary about her battle with cancer. During it her son made a statement like, "I just know she will be okay. She just looks good." There were likely people who live with invisible illnesses all over the country throwing their hands up in frustration or yelling at the television. We've all heard, "But you don't look sick." Although. . . his statement about her appearance was true . Many days she looked perfectly healthy and like the blond bombshell we all remember. Other days, however, she looked sick and as though she was in the fight of her life.
So it is no secret that it can be frustrating to appear to be healthy when you are feeling awful. And yet, let's be honest. Do you really want to look like how you feel? There are some benefits to having an illness that can't be seen by everyone. Let's look at a few of those perks.
 You get to choose who to reveal your illness to and who not to. Some people you may immediately confide in; others you may wait and see if they feel "safe." Some people you may never tell about your illness.
 You can avoid unwanted advice. When your illness is visible, even the person in line at the grocery store feels the burden to share the latest cure for your condition or tell you what you should be eating. With an invisible illness, no one knows and offers comments unless you choose to mention it. And then you chose to open up that whole can of worms.
 You can do you job without preconceived ideas about what you can and cannot do. At some point you decide who to reveal your disease to, but if you are doing your job successful, you may be able to keep it personal for years.
 You aren't on the receiving end of pity or sympathy stares. People who use assistive devices like a cane or wheelchair, or who have a visible illness, must learn to not care what other people (both friends and strangers) may think when they see them shaking, or struggling to walk.
 You can fake it when you want. If you wish to go out to a party with friends, no one there has to know how many medications you took to be able to move. They don't need to know why you aren't dancing. Though your life may still seem controlled by your illness, ultimately, you have moments where you can overrule it and pretend to be healthy and carefree.
Living with an invisible illness can have plenty of disadvantages. This articles doesn't mean to make light of the struggles of living with what many call hidden or invisible disabilities. However, it's important for us to step back and recognize that to truly live life the way God intended, we must take time out to count our blessings.
Some days the simple miracle of being able to look healthy despite feeling terrible is worth acknowledging and accepting it for what it is.
Lisa Copen is the founder of Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week held annually in Sept and featuring a 5-day virtual conference w/ 20 seminars online. Follow Invisible Illness Week on Twitter for cool prizes and info. Blog about invisible illness on your site, be a featured guest blogger, meet others, read articles and lots more. Make a impact today!