Jessie Riley Helps ‘Invisible Illness Patients’ with Hope & Humor

Ever felt overwhelmed or clueless about how to navigate through life after being diagnosed with celiac disease?
It’s not easy coping with an ‘invisible illness.’

According to Disabled World, 96% of people with chronic medical conditions live with an illness that is invisible. Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, lupus, Lyme disease, migraines and many others are considered “invisible illnesses” because there are no outward signs that anything is wrong with the body.

Invisible Illness Celiac Disease“My Invisible Cosmic Zebra Has Celiac Disease—Now What?” is for you. The creative how-to caretaker’s workbook aims to make invisibility no longer a disability for those managing an invisible illness.

Jessie Riley, author of the Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection of 18 how-to workbooks for 18 invisible illnesses, penned the 100-page books to bring hope and humor to recently diagnosed patients and give an inside look at the complex reality of living with chronic, invisible illnesses.

“No matter which invisible illness you’ve been diagnosed with, everyone asks the same thing after leaving the doctor’s office— Now what? Usually, there’s a lot of time and effort put into climbing the mountain of getting a diagnosis, but once at the top, when your doctor finally tells you, “You have (insert invisible illness)—Good luck!” you suddenly feel all alone at the edge of a cliff. You’re sent home with this “invisible thing” you now have to take care of every single day (possibly for the rest of your life) and you wonder, “How do you take care of it? What do you feed it? Can it travel? How do I explain it to my friends? Will they believe me?”

Written from a non-medical perspective, patients ages 12 through young adult, and caregivers/parents of children ages 6-11, can use the workbook as a resource tool for understanding the myriad of funny-but-not-so-funny challenges they might encounter after diagnosis. The book is full of concrete and practical advice, humor, thought-provoking ideas, coloring pages, and lots of lovable cosmic creatures who give comforting advice—all with the aim of bringing hope back into the lives of those living with an invisible illness.

Millions of people around the world have invisible illnesses and Jessie Riley, creator of The Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection, is one of them. To the unknowing observer, Jessie Riley appears to lead a normal life. She’s an aunt to four nieces and nephews in Saratoga Springs, New York. She loves spending time with her family and being a part of the community around her. She has an interesting history, but she’s hesitant to talk about herself, preferring instead to focus on what’s ahead of her and how she wants to make a difference. What the unaware observer can’t see is that Jessie Riley is a zebra.

No, she’s not a literal zebra with stripes, but she does have multiple invisible illnesses, which is what the “zebra” – a slang medical term for a rare and exotic diagnosis – relates to. For more than a decade, Riley struggled with unexplained health issues and the frustration of trying to figure out what was wrong with her body. The fact that she looked perfectly healthy from the outside didn’t help.

Finally, after working with her team of doctors, Riley got some answers. She had celiac disease, hyper-mobility syndrome, and fibromyalgia, all of which would change her daily routine and affect her activities for the rest of her life. A diagnosis like that can throw most people into a tailspin, but Riley learned how to overcome the initial challenges, manage her illnesses, and find a higher purpose. “No matter which invisible illness you’re diagnosed with, everyone has the same question after leaving the doctor’s office—Now what? It’s a universal experience that millions of people go through but it isn’t really talked about too much. I want to bring awareness to this, to help newly diagnosed patients feel less alone, overwhelmed and scared.”

Invisible Celiac Disease

The recently launched Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection of 18 creative how-to workbooks for 18 different invisible illnesses accomplishes that goal. Riley penned the 100-page workbooks to help newly diagnosed patients better understand all of the non-medical aspects of the life-changing adventure ahead of them. She uses the universal experience she describes as the foundation for her work and then creatively encourages every patient to use creative visualization to imagine their invisible illness as an Invisible Cosmic Zebra that they now have to take care of (possibly for the rest of their lives). “In the days, weeks and months after diagnosis, every patient will have to figure out how to give their Invisible Cosmic Zebra the care and attention it needs and how to explain it to others (who might not think it exists).” There are 11 how-to chapters in the book that highlight the myriad of funny-but-not-so-funny challenges patients might encounter.

Riley’s workbooks can be 100% personalized so patients can fill in their own solutions to basic universal challenges like how-to eat, sleep and travel with an Invisible Cosmic Zebra. “Even though you might have diabetes and I might have fibromyalgia, we’ll both have to figure out how to live with these Invisible Cosmic Zebras in the real world—how to socialize with them and how to worry less about with them. But although we might encounter these same challenges, our solutions to overcoming them will all be different.”

The workbooks also inspire patients to use creative visualization to imagine their Invisible Cosmic Zebras feeling better. During Riley’s long medical journey, she used her imagination to pull her through and to imagine her body healing. “As a creative artist with a huge imagination, I am fascinated by the fact that nobody can see, feel, or experience anything that’s going on inside my body. This disconnect—between the visible and the invisible world—is my source of inspiration for this collection and made me a firm believer in the power of imagery.”

She may be on to something. Top athletes frequently use creative visualization before competitions to achieve peak performances. Studies also show how creative visualization can help people heal faster after surgery. According to a Psychology Today article, research on the power of visualization revealed that mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practices and that doing both of them are more effective than doing either one alone.

As Riley will attest to, attempting to use words to explain what goes on in the realm of dreams and the invisible realm within the mind is notoriously difficult, and trying to get someone else to see and experience what’s going on inside the body is even more difficult. But her new workbooks take us on a tour of the unseen world of invisible illness to give us an “inside look” at what’s going on—and it’s a gigantic, incredible space you’ll definitely want to visit!

With her new workbooks, Riley’s a pioneer who’s bringing to light the invisible experience that millions of chronically ill patients live with every day. Doctors who work with invisible illness patients can purchase the workbooks at a discount on

To many, having multiple invisible illnesses can seem like a dead end, but Riley has found that these apparent dead ends can actually open up a whole new world. She’s living proof that there is life, hope, and a higher purpose on the other side of adversity.

The 18 invisible illnesses featured in the collection include allergies, celiac disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, concussion, Crohn’s disease, diabetes, Ehlers Danlos syndrome, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, lupus, Lyme disease, migraines, multiple sclerosis, POTS, PTSD, arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and vestibular disorder.

The Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection is published by Kitanie Books. Kitanie is an award-winning independent publishing house that publishes dynamic collections of coloring books, storybooks and creative how-to workbooks for tweens, teens and young adults.

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SOURCE: The Invisible Cosmic Zebra Collection

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