Virtual Gallery

This piece of artwork is titled “Do You See What I Feel?” by Dana Harrell-Sanders. It is in a collection of art pieces under the titled “But you look so normal”.

I found this artwork interesting because it is meant to be a representation of those who suffer from fibromyalgia. The right side of the photo is how the individual appears to the world, as “normal”. On the left side of the mirror, the individual sees themselves as they feel, chronically fatigued and in pain.

I chose this artwork because we as a society often equate physical pain with it’s visible manifestations. This artwork illustrates how invisible diseases, such as fibromyalgia, are viewed from a societal standpoint and a personal standpoint. It shows human pain, specifically for this piece physical pain, cannot be interpreted just by looking at someone’s outward appearance.

Individuals with disorders that are not as physically apparent may find it is harder to seek health care because providers do not always validate their symptoms because they are not visible or show up in labs. It is important as health care providers to validate what are patients are expressing and do not disregard symptoms just because the individuals appear as “normal” to us.

Question for others: What are ways we can help to validate what are patients are experiencing when they have symptoms that are not outwardly visible?

6 thoughts on “Virtual Gallery

  1. We can validate what patients are feeling by listening to them instead of just assuming we know how they feel. Invisible conditions can be extremely frustrating since the patient has often experienced health care professionals and people in society telling them that there is nothing wrong with them and that it’s all in their heads. Thus, by patients constantly feeling that they are not heard or believed can impact how they view themselves and their overall health.

  2. This is an important question, and I agree that it is sometimes harder to seek health care help when symptoms cannot be physically seen from the outside. Even when I had hip surgery and had to on crutches, people would say it looked like I was faking an injury because the scars and bandages were covered up by my clothes. When I struggled with the mental challenges of immobility, it was hard to rationalize asking for help because I, “looked normal”. As a PT, I think we can play an important role in validating by educating. When I saw my doctor, he would remind me of the severity of my surgery from an anatomical perspective. This made me feel less bad for struggling. We can remind patients that regardless of what they are going through, it is not easy. We can also educate them so that they better understand what’s going on inside their bodies.

  3. This is a great representation of pain as we don’t always see what other people are going through and what their pain is like. Therefore, a good way to validate patients’ symptoms is to be willing to listen to them and take into account their opinions and feelings. I think the title of “medical professionals” can sometimes make us feel like we know everything or at least better than the patient when that is not true, especially when talking about pain. Pain is highly subjective and presents differently in everyone so we have to be willing to listen and ask questions so that our patients feel heard and can trust us to help them get better.

  4. Mary,
    This piece of art is so relatable. I think a lot of us have this weight on our shoulders that society expects us to hide. I know many people have inner demons, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, whatever it may be but we are expected to go through our daily routine with a smile on our face as if everything is OK. I think a huge part of helping our patients is to let them share what they want when they are ready and to not try to minimize, pass over, or dismiss what may have been very sensitive or hard for them to voice. It can be helpful to share a personal experience of your own if you have one to strengthen the bond, but being careful not to overstep any personal boundaries or disrupting your professionalism as well.

  5. This painting is really cool, Mary! Validating what others are going through is very important, but how can we best do that when we can’t see anything wrong from the outside? Really giving the patient ample time to tell you how they are feeling and showing them repeatedly that you are willing to listen with your body language, time, and attention are all very important. The patient may not trust us from day one, but if we consistently show them that we are ready to support them, they will see us as an ally. Also, if we just say something like “I’m sorry, that’s really tough” that could go a long way. We don’t always have to have the perfect response, but just letting them know we’re listening can go a long way.

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