Wow, do I know how you feel, Lovelabs! Unfortunately for me, I've had other "invisible" chronic (life-long, never gonna get rid of) illnesses before I got Lyme's, so I'm over the lack of empathy from people around me. My first started in my late teens and got much worse when I was in my mid-20's, and I was just bewildered and so very hurt that no one around me would even acknowledge that I was going through something horrible and potentially very life-changing. The only ones who would ever even ask or acknowledge just seemed to be quizzing me in a way that left me feeling that they either didn't believe me or they were downplaying it for me "because it couldn't be all that bad, after all you're able to...(fill in the blank)". I'm NOT a person who even talks about
my health problems unless necessary (have to leave work for an appointment and you're better off saying the real reason because they will speculate and gossip anyway and who knows what they'll say if you don't tell them).
It has taken me a very, very long time (20 years) to come to grips with the reality that people only have so much emotional excess to share with others. We have ourselves, our immediate family, our extended family, our close friends, and then our other friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. And then strangers who we strike up a conversation with at times. When you look at how many people each of us has in our lives, we are just spread so thin. It's very easy and takes very little effort on our part to have empathy for something obvious like cancer, a broken bone, heart problems, etc. It actually requires extremely little effort on our part to offer a word or gesture of compassion for these patients, because without really thinking about it or digesting it in any way, you just know it's bad and you react. That's all it requires, and we feel good about ourselves for giving of ourselves to the poor person who is suffering. And then we are done. We feel we did something and we can resume our own issues/problems, etc. You'd seem cold if you didn't react. But in an invisible illness, and there are MANY, not just Lyme's, where the other person has to actually put some effort into even hearing what we are saying, understanding it to some degree, and then digesting what you are saying. They don't have a clue what you are going through (and seriously don't want to hear about it every time they see you, and really don't want to hear all the gory details), and really don't have the emotional bank of excess to worry about someone else's problems because they have their own "invisible" issues (maybe health, emotional, family, whatever). They don't mean to be cold and uncaring, they just don't have anything left to give as far as taking the time and effort to digest it, think it through, and even knowing WHAT to offer. And at the same time, they have their own issues, some quite weighty that WE are unaware of, and they probably think whatever it is that we are going through equals nothing more than the empathy-worthiness of yeast infection, a bad headache, tonsilitis, etc. Yeah, it sucks, but we all got something, and I'm not telling you about mine, so why are you telling me about yours? It's like someone telling you they got a new haircut and they are really excited about it or worried it's too drastic of a change, and you really didn't even notice they got a haircut or that there is any change from what you remembered they had...it passes quickly through your mind, you possibly remember to offer a compliment or a word of kindness about it, and you don't have to digest it or drain your emotional bank in any way, shape, or form, and it's the last thing on your mind. Ever. If it's not obviously right in their face requiring some type of response or reaction, they truly have their own inner invisibilities to deal with.
I read somewhere that even cancer has a 4 month limit on other people's emotional involvement - we each have only so much to give. We have to think about that when we deal with other people too. How many people that we are expecting to show us empathy for what we are going through are going through their own emotional or physical hell that WE are not acknowledging or asking about or involving ourselves with?
I hope this helps. It took me a long time to get there, but now that I understand it, it is what gets me through on my own.