The Parts of My Chronic Illness You Don’t See

(The first time I posted this, it was shared on Medium.com, but I wanted to be sure to get it up on the blog as well.)

It’s easy to be a person on the outside, making assumptions. I get it. I’ve been there and am still there to some extent. We see what’s in front of us and formulate our beliefs based on our observations. It makes logical sense.However, when we judge the surface without understanding what’s going on inside, we fail to grasp the full picture.

Emily and Jonathan
One of the happiest times I had at the beginning of treatment! My boyfriend, Jonathan, came over and we ate dinner on the patio. I was feeling good as the antibiotics and supplements were kicking in right away — still had some physical pain, but was feeling great emotionally! What you don’t see is that just a few days later I was in deep depression and was about to give up on everything. Those who saw the happy picture on social media probably thought I was better, but in reality it was just a small moment of feeling better amidst a sea of hard days.

EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have other people make observations about how I look and then formulate opinions about how I must feel.

They then go on to tell me how I must be feeling based on my appearance. Some days, they are correct, but a majority of the time my outer shell doesn’t begin to express the pain beneath it.

Because I truly believe that most people are well-meaning, I try to brush it off. But, it’s not that simple. The neurological symptoms of Lyme have left me with crippling anxiety and depression. I get so anxious about what other people will think that I sometimes lie to myself and to them; I tell them I’m feeling well because those are the words they already put in my mouth. I submit to their opinions because I don’t want to be judged for still being sick.

This eats me up inside as I face other guilt because as a person of faith, I believe in honesty. I don’t want to pretend, but it feels like those around me want to put me into a box — a box I cannot seem to escape.

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Emily Lofgren’s heart beats for authenticity. She craves true connection where we can be real about our struggles and find hope together. Emily became a Christian in college and since then has had a passion for writing in a way that helps others encounter life. Grab your free copy of her eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog.

So, Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness?

Hey there,

I’m really glad you’re reading this. Thank you for taking an interest in your friend and being willing to learn more about the crippling effects of chronic illness on their life.

There’s so much your friend wants you to know but probably won’t tell you. It could be because it’s awkward. How do you tell someone that you experience extreme pain every day, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional, and not seem like you’re just complaining or wanting attention.

So, Your Friend Has a Chronic Illness?

Being chronically ill, I have experienced many years of being unable to explain myself. For most of that time, I had no idea what was going on. And, honestly, the pre-diagnosis years of suffering were full of unexplainable highs and lows that left me blaming myself. I thought that I must have been doing something wrong to feel the way I did.

Once my condition became bad enough that I realized a better sleep schedule, some exercise, and a healthy diet wouldn’t fix it, I had to start digging to get to the bottom of what had been causing such grief. Finding out I had chronic Lyme Disease and co-infections was actually a blessing because then I could begin a treatment regimen. It also gave me an explanation to share with others, because previously I had just thought I was crazy.

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Emily Lofgren’s heart beats for authenticity. She craves true connection where we can be real about our struggles and find hope together. Emily became a Christian in college and since then has had a passion for writing in a way that helps others encounter life. Grab your free copy of her eBook Finding Hope Through the Fog.

Held in the Fire

Today, I’m excited to share with you an article by one of my favorite writers, Glenna Marshall! Glenna has become a friend of mine through the Hope*Writers community and it has been a joy to get know her. Something we have in common is our experience with chronic pain. While enduring chronic illness can often leave one feeling hurt and discouraged, Glenna’s perspective and trust in Christ has been encouraging to me as I’ve walked in faith during this rough season. Let’s welcome Glenna! 


Pain is white and blue, the hottest center of a flame.

Not a gently flickering candle, but an explosion of blistering heat, a fire that blazes without burning out. It starts at the base of my spine and reaches out to my hips, radiating down my right leg with fiery tentacles that entangle themselves around my bones, wrapping tightly around nerve endings and tendons. My ribcage aches while pain slices back and forth across my spine until I’m certain my body will snap in two.

It might feel better if it did.

Held in the Fire

I have an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. There’s a long, scientific explanation of how my body attacks itself, but the primary result is an inflammatory arthritis that feels much, much worse than it sounds. I lived with AS for five years of bent-over, crushing pain that wrenched me out of sleep every night and pressed me with fear every morning as I sluggishly worked to stand up straight. I didn’t look sick, but dawn always found me uncomfortably dozing while sitting up, surrounded by ice and heat packs and pain medication. The continual, abrasive nature of my pain sanded down any hope that I would ever feel normal again. Like most autoimmune diseases, mine didn’t come alone. It brought a host of other chronic diseases and disorders, ranging from annoying to excruciating, depending on what day it is.

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