"You look so good! You can't be as bad as you say. You look perfectly healthy."

"You think you have fatigue? Try working full-time plus having four children! Then you'll know what chronic fatigue is."

"I think you're spending too much time thinking about how you feel. You need to just get out more."

"If you really wanted to get well, you'd at least try that juice drink I gave you last week. It won't hurt to try it."

And the comments go on. . . and on.

And it really hurts.

You may be surprised to hear that nearly 1 in 2 Americans has a chronic illness or physical condition that affects their daily life. The range of diseases and included everything from back pain to fibromyalgia, arthritis to cancer, and migraines to diabetes. Oftentimes, one of the largest emotional stumbling blocks for people who suffer from illness is the invisibility of the pain. About 96% of illness is invisible. This means that the person who suffers from the chronic condition show no outward signs of physical pain or disability, nor does he or she use an assistive device like a walker or wheelchair. But the incredible pain each day can be disabling within the confines of the home.

If you have an invisible illness here are 5 tools to help let go of some of the frustrations:

[1] Free people from the expectations you typically have had of them. This step will likely be a life-long process, but without taking it, you will consistently find that people will always disappoint you. No one is perfect-even you! And it's important to remember that those with illness do not understand the difficulties that our friends are going through, such as a divorce, the death of a loved one, an ill child, a loss job, etc. Your illness is momentous in your life. And even though people do care, they still will have significant things going on in their own lives. Don't hold that against them.

[2] Find supportive, caring friends. If there is someone in your circle of friendships who is constantly belittling you or distrustful about your illness, this should be a relationship to end. If it's a relative, distance yourself as much as you can. Illness gives us an opportunity to help us prioritize our friendships. With limited energies we should surround ourselves with those who at least can give us the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge our illness exists.

[3] Find joy in your blessings. Rather than thinking about how badly you feel, find ways to bring more joy into your life. Appreciate the little things. Observe what you are doing when you have a burst of unexplained energy and realize that there lies your passion. Focus on bringing more of this into your life. You may not be able to garden like you once did, but you can grow a few potted flowers or hire a neighborhood teenager to plant some vegetables and set up an automatic sprinkler system for them. Or if you want to dream big, start a consulting business for want-to-be gardeners.

[4] Use your talents and skills for things you care about. If you're no longer able to work because of your illness, you may feel like your skills are going to waste. Maybe you've always wanted to write children's books or be a business consultant. Find a place to plug in and do some volunteer or part-time work for to be able to use these skills in an area where you feel passionate. Instead of focusing on what others aren't providing you with that you want so much, follow your dreams and give that gift to yourself.

[5] Encourage someone else. You personally know how hard it is to live with illness and to feel like no one understands. So take time to be vulnerable with someone else who is going through this. Whether you meet someone through an online group such as National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week's message boards, or through your local support group, volunteer your time and expertise (yes, you're an expert on living with invisible illness!) and use it to make someone else's journey easier and you'll find your own is more enjoyable too. Are you frustrated that no one at your church thinks your invisible illness is real? Rather than stop going to church, find ways to educate them, such as a column in the church newsletter or brochures about National Invisible Chronic Illness Awareness Week. These say what to say/not to say to a chronically ill person.

None of us have the capability to force another person to change, or to make them care. But we can educate them and give gentle advice. We must also continue to work on ourselves, however, because you will find that even when you want to change it can be a real challenge. It requires discipline and motivation for a better life. You owe it to yourself to find joy despite your illness, and by focusing on how you can change your circumstances, instead of change other people, you'll be much more rewarded.

Author's Bio: 

Get a free download of 200 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend from "Beyond Casseroles" by Lisa Copen when you signup for HopeNotes invisible illness ezine at Rest Ministries. Lisa is the coordinator of Invisible Illness Awareness