Invisible Disabilities

7 Oct 2015

We faced a new season in our homeschool this past year as we decided not to return to the co-op we had participated in for a number of years. Although it was a tough decision, it allowed the children and me to participate in a wonderful group called Community Bible Study—something I’ve always wanted to do. We enjoyed this new avenue for making friends and studying the scriptures together.

After meeting corporately, the moms and kids divide into smaller core groups to discuss the week's lesson. My group is diverse in age, background, ethnicity and ability. One of my new friends has shared transparently about her battle with severe chronic pain. She regularly struggles with basic, daily tasks that most of us take for granted and often does so with a smile. You'd never know just by looking at her that she suffers with debilitating pain on a constant basis. But internally her body hurts, and sometimes her heart too. She has rightly described herself, and many others, as having an invisible disability.

As I was thinking about this sweet friend one evening, I began to wonder how often the same can be said of homeschool moms. I say that, not to marginalize a person's physical disabilities, or to inflate a home-educating mom's plight; it was a genuine concern that came to mind. Although most of us possess a certain degree of strong independence and grit that is inherent in directing our children's education, I imagine there are some among us who are struggling silently.

You know that mom who has a dozen kids and makes it look so easy? She might be battling postpartum depression.

What about that mom who seems to have unlimited financial resources for curriculum or activities? Perhaps she struggles in her marriage with a husband who’s gone more than he's home.

What about that mom with all the talented kids who are successful in all things academic or athletic? It's possible she's dealing with a rebellious heart and attitude in one of her children.

And what about that mom who always seems so godly and spiritually mature? She just might be struggling with her faith, doubting God's goodness, questioning His faithfulness.

My dear friend encourages others suffering with unseen disabilities to be bold in telling others about their invisible illnesses so that those around them will be aware of their needs. I think all moms, and especially homeschool moms, would benefit from doing the same. So my challenge to you is two-fold:

First, tell a friend. We need to be honest with each other, sharing our struggles, fears and burdens. If you keep wearing a smile and never allow yourself to be vulnerable, no one will ever know, and if they don't know, they can't help. So whether it's as simple as the frustration of lost library books and pencils that mysteriously vanish at math time or as serious as a rebellious child or troubled marriage, please talk to someone. Confide in a close friend, a church member, a mentor or a staff person at the church you attend. Most importantly, tell your Father. He's a good Father who loves you perfectly and unconditionally.

Second, be a friend. Some of you may not have a particular burden or problem you’re struggling with at the moment. If that happens to be the case, praise the Lord and then ask Him to show you who might need your help. That might mean asking your friend the hard questions: How's your marriage? How's your walk with the Lord? Do you have your child's heart? Then once you ask, simply listen. Don't try to fix it. Don't give unsolicited opinions, advice or suggestions. Just listen to her heart. People are sometimes helped simply knowing they are not alone.

Perhaps you can identify with my sweet friend; your outer appearance may not accurately reflect your inner struggle. Or perhaps you find yourself tied up in the dailyness of life and fail to notice those around you who need help. Whatever the case may be, I pray that we all would have the courage to be real and honest with each other, to “…bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal.6:2)

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Comments

Liz's picture

Great article, Amanda. This really hit home for me. I found myself recently sharing a struggle with a friend and it really helped just telling someone about it. I know this person will pray for me and that was such a comfort. When she opened up and shared a very similar struggle, I was reminded that our burdens sometimes prepare us to help and advise others down the road. Perhaps my journey and struggle will allow me to help someone else in need one day. Then the senseless pain I have gone through will finally make sense. Thanks again.