May is Lupus Awareness Month and May 10th was National Lupus Day so I felt compelled to write something about it...yes, a few days late but stay with me.

Millions of people worldwide struggle with what people have called "Invisible Illness".  That could mean a number of different conditions.  Fibromyalgia, MS, Digestive Disorders such as IBS or Crohn's, Cancer, Certain forms of debilitating arthritis such as Rheumatoid or Psoriatic and autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto's or, in my case, Lupus.

Often times with Lupus there are a number of underlying diseases associated with it (often called umbrella disorders).  With me, I have several.  Not only do I suffer from Lupus, but I also suffer from Rheumatoid and Psoriatic Arthritis as well as something called Sjogren's Syndrome.  Yes, that's a lot to deal with.  But that's not the important part.

People struggle with these illnesses every single day and often times, you'd never be able to tell.  Because we want to try to keep up some sense of normalcy and, well, because to be honest...most people just do not understand.

I also suffer from another biproduct of these diseases.  Depression.  Depression is real folks.  It's not just something that's in our heads.  It's an actual, real deal, 100% illness.  Yes, I have depression but you'd probably never know it.  I, like so many others, hide it very well.

I'm not writing this to garner pity.  Far from it.  I have always been an advocate for awareness and I'm blessed with a platform and company that allows me to do so.  Don't feel sorry for us.  Understand us.  Don't be afraid to ask questions.  I will answer anything anyone asks about my illnesses.  And don't give people looks at the grocery store that park in a handicapped spot.  I have a handicapped hanger that I sometimes use when it's a really bad day and I'm hurting pretty bad.  But you'd be surprised of the judgemental looks I get getting out of my car and how dare me not be missing a limb or require a wheelchair.  Come on Victoria, we're better than that.

And to all those people who suffer from invisible illnesses....You are not alone.  I've been through the ringer in my life.  I suffer from Lupus, Psoriatic and Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren's Syndrome, sometimes crippling depression, I'm a stage 3 cancer survivor and I work 2 jobs.  You're stronger than you realize.  Don't let the ignorance of a few get to you.  Don't get angry...educate.  Let them know what's going on don't just let them try to diminish what you're going through.  Don't shut down...advocate.  Somewhere, someone is just being diagnosed and feel frightened and lost.  Reach out and help.  Offer words of encouragement.  Be a beacon of light in a dark time.  I have met some amazing people just like me since I've been diagnosed.  We are out there.  I'm always available at davefenix@townsquaremedia.com I will help as much as humanly possible.  Reach out anytime.

The most important thing to remember, for both sides, is educate.  If you don't suffer from an invisible illness but know someone who does, do your best to be a friend to them.  Don't offer advice or home remedy cures..trust me, we get it all the time.  Just listen, research, and adapt.  Sometimes all someone needs is an ear or shoulder..give it to them without hesitation or judgment.

And finally, remember, you are NOT alone.