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The Nature of Autoimmune Diseases

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which one's immune system attacks the body's healthy tissues. Autoimmune diseases affect more than 50 million Americans and millions of other individuals around the world. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, more than 75% of auto-immune disease sufferers are women. Although there are more than 100 identified autoimmune disorders a few of the most well-known include: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's disease. More significant than the statistics are the day-to-day experiences, emotions, and hardships that people living with autoimmune disorders have to live with.

The Invisible Ailment Syndrome

People with autoimmune diseases come from different genders, ages, ethnic groups, and nationalities. Many autoimmune diseases are not instantly detectable and can prompt comments like, "but you don't look sick", "but you're so healthy", or even, "but you look so normal". Not only can these comments be frustrating, but naive to the nature of autoimmune diseases. Aji, a woman who was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder Chronic Epstein-Barr Virus Syndrome (CEBV), knows how it feels to live every day with pain. Aji wrote a blog post titled, "But You Look So Normal!" Living with Multiple Autoimmune Disease, and quoted the following:

"This is my "normal."  And no one can see it. So I'm going to ask one thing of you.  Next time you're faced with someone who has one of these conditions - or some as-yet-unidentified condition - don't assume that it's nothing.  Don't assume that it's all in his or her head.  Don't assume that it's no big deal because it's not heart disease or cancer or because you don't see a cane or a wheelchair."

Sharon Harris is the founder and president of Lupus Detroit and was diagnosed with lupus at the age of 23. Over the past 13 years she has learned how to not only live with an autoimmune disease, but to learn to live with the reactions of the people she encounters. Harris reflects on the difficult perception people have about her condition and quotes:

Many people say that we˜don't look sick when there is a battle raging inside of us.

Accepting a New Normal

Many people don't tell you that learning to live with a chronic condition means grieving the loss of your "old normal". Knowing, grieving, accepting, and then living with an illness in a "new normal", are all a part of the process. Nathalie Roberston shared her story about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and reflects on the changes that came from her diagnosis:

"I went through phases of feeling angry and hurt and depressed. But in the end I knew I had one of two choices: I could feel sorry for myself, or I could move forward. I had to mourn the person I no longer was and accept the person I had become."

Roberston chose to move forward and that is a choice that everyone is able to make. Living with pain, living with an autoimmune disease, living without abilities we once had, are not choices we may have ever imagined having to make. In the end, we may not choose to be dealing with an illness, but we can choose our reaction to it. It is important to always determine what parts of our health are in our control, and let go of the parts of our health that we can not change. DR-HO'S wants to help everyone suffering from pain to find affordable options that can provide relief. Download the FREE Guide to Understanding Pain or discover DR-HO products here.

blog-bannerSources:

  1. 2010. Aji. Daily Kos. "KosAbility: "But You Look So Normal!" Living With Multiple Autoimmune Disease."
  2. 2015. Andriakos, Jacqueline. News & Health. "7 People on What It's Really Like to Have Lupus."
  3. 2016. Robertson, Nathalie. Canadian Family. "Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Personal Story."
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