Category: The Invisible Illness Survival Guide

The Invisible Illness Survival Guide by Robin ParrishIn The Invisible Illness Survival Guide, novelist Robin Parrish tells his own story of living with not one but three invisible, chronic illnesses, and shares the practical things he wishes he’d known from the outset — things that will make managing your health and day-to-day life easier. This pocket-sized guide book provides answers to elephant-in-the-room questions that doctors never talk about.

Available in Print and for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Special Enhanced iBooks Edition.

Stepping Outside of Myself

Spider-Man and a friend

Your friendly neighborhood author (and a friend).
Photo by Heather Conner.

On Halloween night, I attended our church’s annual “Trunk or Treat” night, where my family (okay, mostly my wife) put together a trunk for the kids who came. I went as Spider-Man, and it turned out to be a very special experience.

I expected the kids that attended would think it’s cool to see a guy dressed in a fairly authentic-looking Spider-Man suit (I was leaning more toward “cosplay” than the standard “Halloween costume”), but I had no idea how big a deal it would become.

Hardly a minute or two went by (and sometimes a handful of seconds) when another boy or girl down the line would spot me and shout, “It’s Spider-Man!” Many times they bypassed the candy we were giving out altogether and came straight to Spidey. Most of them wanted high fives or fist bumps. There were probably 10-15 whose parents asked if I’d pose for pictures, and I tried my best to contort into a cool Spider-Man pose.

As incredible as those moments were, they weren’t my favorites. That distinction belongs to the five or six little ones — probably 2 to 3 years old, each — who without a word and without hesitation, ran up and gave me a big hug. “I love you, Spider-Man,” a few of them said. “Spider-Man loves you too, buddy,” I replied as I hugged them back.

To say that it tugged on my heartstrings does not do the event justice.

I don’t make a particularly impressive Spider-Man. I may be thinner than I used to be, but big muscles and the ability to grow them are not something God has ever gifted me with. I’m still a little squishier around the middle than I’d like to be. Then there’s the suit, which was cheap and poor quality. It didn’t fit so well, and I couldn’t see through the lenses. At all. (But the fact that we were in a parking lot with no bright lights actually helped sell the illusion.) By the end of the night, the suit was showing a lot of wear and tear.

But none of that mattered. For one night, I was Spider-Man, a real superhero that made a whole bunch of kids very, very happy.

And now I think I know what I want to be every year for Halloween.

Living with chronic pain and invisible illnesses is no fun. The pain ebbs and flows but never goes away, you’re always tired and want more sleep, and your mind decides to forget things that it knew just a few hours ago. That’s the tip of the iceberg. But for a few hours this week, I got to step outside of that person and be someone else. It was exhilarating! No thinking about my pains or fatigue or money or stress or whatever else; I existed purely as a real-life superhero to several hundred children.

I think it was one of my favorite things I’ve ever done.

Now if only there was a way to cosplay as Spider-Man for a living…


How Hapkido Has Become the Greatest Weapon In the Fight for My Life screenshot

While I continue trying to bend WordPress to my will (it’s not going well 😡 🤯, just don’t even right now), I have something cool to share. I was honored to be asked to talk about my struggle with invisible illnesses for the MyTherapy Blog.

MyTherapy is a new app that schedules your medications and reminds you exactly when to take them. It also works for daily measurements like blood pressure or blood sugar, and other therapies. I’ve tried it; it’s attractively designed, intuitive, and includes a lot of thoughtful little touches that other similar apps lack.

The interview I took part in — along with 5 others — is part of today’s article at the MyTherapy Blog. My part talks about how taking martial arts classes, specifically Hapkido, has completely rewritten my story of fighting invisible illnesses. It really has radically altered every aspect of my health and quality of life. (The rest of the article is really good, too.)

Read the whole thing here, and please share it with anyone who could benefit from the information it contains!


An Easy Litmus Test for Depression

Am I depressed? Or do I have Depression?

There’s an easy way to determine if you suffer from Major (aka, Clinical) Depression, or if you’re just depressed, aka feeling blue.

To clarify, when I say depressed, with a lower-case “d,” I’m referring to the emotion. It’s the temporary feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion, and is caused by circumstances. When I say Depression with a capital “D,” I’m referring to the chronic mental illness that’s not always reactionary, but is always beyond your control.

Say you’re feeling down, and it’s a sensation that won’t go away. How do you know if something deeper is going on in the old noggin’, or if you’re just in a slump that’s a little harder to shake off than usual? Is it Depression or depression?

Here’s a really big clue: Your behavior around others can reveal which one you’re experiencing.

When you’re depressed, you don’t care who knows it. You tell people, you tell them why you’re feeling that way, and you want someone to sympathize with you. Emotional depression comes with the implication that it’s a temporary condition. Just like happiness or anger, depression will go away after a while. And — and this is crucial — it’s “normal.”

If you suffer from Major Depression, you go out of your way to fake seeming normal. You hide it with every ounce of energy you have. And I think that’s largely because of the societal stigma that’s still attached to mental illness. You don’t want your friends or loved ones to think there’s something really wrong with you. And that’s not even necessarily a selfish act; you may do it to keep your family from worrying.

Major Depression, the mental illness, is not temporary. It’s chronic. So you hide it, because you don’t want anyone to think that you’re becoming a nutjob who’s going to wind up in a mental hospital on suicide watch.

So here’s your litmus test:

  • If you’re depressed, you show it.
  • If you suffer from Depression, you instinctually hide it.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor and this is not a formal diagnostic tool. But if there’s a dark cloud hanging over you that won’t go away, and you find yourself actively hiding it from those around you… Please call a psychiatrist. Now.


I’m Not Reliable Anymore

Thoughts puppy

I used to be sharp. Focused. Reliable. I was on point, all the time. It was one of my finest skills.

I remember what it was like.

But I’ve come to a painful realization: that quality is gone from me. It has slowly slipped away.

It’s not like dementia. I don’t blink and suddenly have no idea where I am, or who I am. I’m not losing my mind. I’m just in a permanent brainfog. Imagine your mind swimming in soup: your synapses are firing but they take longer to make connections because your brain is trapped in mush.

I forget things I’m supposed to do. I’m late with work assignments. I can’t keep up with my kids. Sometimes I can’t concentrate. It frustrates and astounds me to no end how hard it is to remember names and terms. There are days when Depression strikes and it’s paralyzing. I’ve already forgotten half the stuff I was going to put in this blog post!

This sucks. I don’t like it, and I don’t want it. I rail against it. It’s especially troubling when your family is struggling financially and you can’t find regular income because you have an invisible chronic illness and Depression and brainfog and every day your debt gets bigger while your income gets smaller and smaller

Am I over-explaining? Yeah okay, you get it.

Anyway. I can’t deny it anymore. I’ve been excusing it for a while. Everybody has one-time deals, “off days,” and whatever. If something slips by every once in a while, it’s a fluke. No big deal. But if it happens repeatedly, it’s a pattern.

It’s been a long week, so I’m probably seeing things through tired, overly-dramatic eyes. Freely admit, it’s entirely possible. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But there’s no denying that things have changed. I’m not like I used to be.

Maybe I can get back what I’ve lost with the right doctors and the right treatment. I hope and pray for that.