5 Tips for Those Struggling from an Invisible Pain or Illness

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“Ohh, but you look fine.”

You have no idea how many times I’ve heard someone tell me this over these past two years since my cardiac arrest. As I will discuss in the video, it’s important to point out that, while someone can look fine, that doesn’t mean they are fine.

There are plenty of people walking around with suicidal thoughts who look fine. There are plenty of people struggling with depression who look fine. There are plenty of people reading this who are going through a lot but look fine. And there are plenty of people dealing with life-threatening diseases who look fine.

If you are someone like me, who struggles with something on the inside, but looks fine, from the outside, then here in this video I share 5 things with you that help me deal with my invisible struggle on a daily basis, such as dizziness and nausea, after surviving my cardiac arrest. These tips can be applied to any other mental struggles as well.

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The transcription is, for the most part, AI-transcribed and is currently 85% accurate. We are still weeding out some minor errors.

Jellis Vaes
Hey everyone, Jellis here, the founder of The IPS Project, the educational platform on life. I actually like to talk in this video about a topic that I actually had to deal with a lot in my own life, but certainly the last two years. And that’s actually dealing with looking okay from the outside, but internally not being okay. I recently did on The IPS Podcast an interview with Dr. Martin Inderbitzin. He’s a neuroscientist. And in that interview, we were talking about the topics of life and death. Now, if you look at both of us there from the outside, it’s hard to see why we both quite young men who look pretty healthy and fine from the outside, why we would be talking about those topics, why would we be talking about death?

From the outside it doesn’t look like we have much to say in a way on those topics, right? But this all changes if you know that Martin is a pancreatic cancer survivor who’s dealing with chronic cancer, and I am a person who survived a sudden cardiac arrest and is dealing with a chronic heart disease my whole life. From the outside, everyone in a way almost looks fine. You don’t see it always very apparent that someone is walking around with suicidal thoughts. They often might look fine from the outside. Or that they’re dealing with depression, going through a breakup, or dealing with something very difficult in their life, or live with a life-threatening disease like both me and Martin do. And that’s actually what I want to talk about in this video and share some tips to anyone watching who has an invisible pain, an invisible thing that people don’t directly see.

It’s Okay Not to Be Okay
I’ve had many people in my life who kept telling me, stay hopeful or it’s going to be okay, but never really took time to listen to my pain and to the emotions that I was feeling. I certainly have had people or have people in my life who did just took the time to listen to me. But between the people who gave solutions or who threw a lot of positive psychology at me, see it from the bright side, stay hopeful, it’s going to be okay. And the people who just sit down with me and just listen to me. I can definitely say when you are going through some invisible pain from the outside, that often it’s just the people who will just sit down with us take the time to listen and just say, like, tell me tell me what you are feeling. Help me understand what you’re going through, and not immediately come with a solution, those have been the best conversations to me that were the most helpful to you. If you are someone who is going through something very difficult at the moment, it’s those people in the end that you should also try to reach out to the ones that, you know, who will listen and just sit down with you. And don’t try to brush your emotions aside.

It is okay to not be okay at times. Let those emotions in. Sure, they’re not pleasant, sure, you might want to quickly turn them around into happy emotions, but if you’re suppressing them or you’re pushing them away, they’re just going to stay dormant within you. And you’re actually not able to work through this, what you’re feeling, and you’re not being there for yourself. If you do let them in and you do actually pay attention to them and work through them, there’s room for these other emotions to enter as well. But you got to give it space, those emotions, and you got to give it a place by actually looking at them and by talking about them, by verbalizing them. And if you can do that with someone, also more powerful to do that.

Find a Support Group
Find people who know exactly or very closely what you’re going through. People in our life who did not have a recent breakup or who don’t who are not depressed or who live with constant anxiety or are dealing with some illness, might do their absolute best to try to understand them, but they might never completely, truly understand what it’s like because it hasn’t happened to them. For example. And seeking a support group with people who have had a sudden cardiac arrest, in my case, has proven to me to be so helpful because I know more closely what they’re going through than anyone else almost in their life who has not gone through this. And they as well know very closely what I’m going through compared to other people in my life who have not had this happen to them. And whatever you’re going through, seek a support group, whether if it’s online, on Facebook, on Reddit, on Discord, on a forum, or offline where you go to some offline support group or some kind of circle.

Now, if you feel like support groups aren’t really your thing, but try it. If you have not tried it, try it, right? But if you have given it a try and you feel like yeah, Jellis, they’re really not my thing, what can I do? There are other ways to get support and that could be through books. There are so many people who have written books, who’ve had suicidal thoughts and made it through it, or who have been dealing with depression, or who lost someone in their life, or who have had a breakup and who documented and shared their insights and tips in those books. There are so many amazing books out there who have also dealt with that pain that you are experiencing right now. So look up those books and if you do not like reading, you got audiobooks too, right? And you could also check podcast episodes, right? Like if you are dealing with cancer, for example, then do have a listen to the episode with Martin. I mean, I did multiple episodes with him on the podcast. Hearing someone talk about their journey is insightful. It helps us to get closer to our own answers by hearing the answers to questions from other people.

Verbalize Your Feelings to People
So when I work with clients, it has happened sometimes that they expect that I exactly know what they want. I’m not, in the end, a mind reader. I might be a mental health coach, but I’m not a magician. I can’t read minds. I try to read their body language and what they’re saying. You can pick up a lot of things from that if you pay attention, but I don’t know exactly everything that they’re thinking and what they’re wanting. And if you are also experiencing inner pain or you’re dealing with something, a struggle, you can’t expect people to just know that that you are dealing with this pain. And this is the whole problem in the end with mental health that it’s often not taken seriously, right? Because you don’t visibly always see that something is wrong with someone. You don’t see that someone is depressed or suicidal. There might be signs, right? But still, it’s not so obvious compared to if someone lost their arm. It’s way more clearly like oh okay, something happened, I guess, with you, because your arm is gone.

If you’re suicidal or if you’re depressed or you’re going through a breakup, that’s not always so clear and there are a lot of people are very good at masking that pain away, out of protection, maybe. But if there is someone that you do actually want to share that with, you do have to verbalize the inner landscape of what’s happening within you. You do have to verbalize that with words because it is not always so apparent what you’re going through unless you explain that to people. And if you do, and you do it with the right people, people that you know, people that you trust, then often they will take it serious and they will listen to you. And if they don’t, then what I just gave as a piece of advice before this one, do that in the support group that you’re in. And this is where you can help also because sometimes it’s really difficult to put the right words to what you’re feeling. I at least struggled a lot with that. If you are struggling with that, this is where reading books or listening to podcast episodes from people who have gone through the similar thing like you are going through, is really helpful because you can borrow words that connected with you, that you were like yeah, that’s what I’m feeling as well. You can borrow those words and you can use them when you do have more words verbalize to people what you’re going through because else yeah, it’s not so clearly always shown, just physically honest what you’re going through.

Go Outside
It might sound a bit like a lame thing to say until you try it too. Go outside. And I don’t mean go outside and party. I mean, go outside to a park, go outside to the mountains, go outside somewhere, a forest where there’s green and when there’s nature, sit somewhere on a spot that you like and take a notebook with you and a pen. Don’t use your phone because it’s going to distract you. You’re going to do different things. And write down six things that either have to do with smell, taste, hearing, seeing or feeling.

A few days ago, I did this exercise again, actually. I went to the park, I sat down somewhere. It was at a playground, with lots of children. It was in the forest. It was a sunny day, was beautiful. And I wrote down I could feel the warmth of the sun on me. That sparked something within me, a very pleasurable feeling. Or I could smell the fresh air and the trees. Or I could just see children playing and having fun and their parents with them and just sharing a beautiful moment there together. Write a couple of things down, six things. Six things. And I can tell you this is not going to be the solution to what you’re dealing with, right? But at least it gives me each time a moment of peace, you will experience something similar. It takes you away for a second, out of your head and out of your worries, and just brings you down in this moment, what’s right here in front of you, and that brings peace.

Find Meaning
I don’t want to just say like, oh, just find a meaning and it’s all going to be fine and everything is going to be good again. That’s not exactly what I mean. When I look at people such as Martin or Alex Lewis, someone I also had on a podcast who is a quadruple amputee. He lost all his limbs from an infection. Or Craig Stanland, someone who committed fraud and had to spend years in prison. When I look at those people, what got them true, and this is also true for myself, is to find meaning in what they went through. Now, I would say this piece of tip or piece of advice is certainly true for something that you can’t reverse or that won’t resolve itself through time. Like a breakup, which is painful, but that pain will also reduce true time. If you’re dealing with some chronic disease, it’s chronic, right. So likely you will have to live with it until the day that you die. Doing something with what has happened to you, and it’s often the most meaning you will get if it’s that you do something that serves other people, that helps other people.

If you can create something and that can be just creating your own support group, for example, or creating a project, it can be going to a support group and being there for other people. It can be hard to immediately be like, oh yeah, this is what I’m going to do now, this will bring me the meaning. So if you don’t know yet what you should do with what has happened to you, to draw meaning from it, I would say spend time listening to people such as Martin or Craig Stanland or Alex Lewis, all people that I had on the podcast. Spend time listening to those people or read books from people who went through something similar. It can help you to draw inspiration.

Jellis Vaes
All right. I hope that something in this video was helpful to you. If you have any other tips or pieces of advice for other people, then you can always leave a comment down below. I would be, myself, actually very curious to hear what has helped you and what you could recommend to other people. Any episodes that I mentioned to you, such as, like the interview with Martin and me or with Craig Stanland or Alex Lewis, I will put them in the description down below.

Do also check The IPS project. I will also put it in the description. But we have so many episodes there about mental health, about relationships, about the mind, the body and brain, on a topic maybe that you are currently struggling with or dealing with. So check the podcast. There might be a good episode that could help you. I hope at least that these pieces of advice and tips can help you in some way. Try a few out that you feel right for you and see what it might do.

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