I have invisible illnesses and I am disabled by some of them. Yes, you can’t see them. Yes, they are invisible. But I am not. I matter. My life matters. My existence matters. You can’t treat me as Lesser Than just because I am disabled, if you find out I am. You can’t judge how I Look to be my physical, mental or emotional well-being… that isn’t how it works. You can’t judge me based on your preconceived notions on what it is to be chronically ill if I do not fit in that box.
There is a strong level of isolation that comes with an Invisible Disability. There is this societal implied rule that one simply does not talk about one’s chronic illness much. And certainly not the true depths of it.
Or… you are complaining.
Or… you are negative.
Or… you are exaggerating.
People do not want to hear the truth. And we learn this the hard way often. Hell, even medical professionals it seems suggest we must be exaggerating.
It is a very subtle thing how you learn that people just do not really want to know. I suspect because of the fear of their own mortality. Illness comes to us all and I think people are aware of that subconsciously. To know that someone suffers from an ailment makes them distinctly… uncomfortable in ways I do not think they can even name. Some way more than others. Some will accept some bland level of truth from you, and give you some sort of sympathy back. It is just you can’t go too deep into the truth. That is just not quite acceptable. Too much information. Everyone seems to understand true suffering is a private thing. Not meant to be discussed.
So we become more and more stoic and then that just makes us more and more invisible. Because we create a facade. We become stoic in the doctor’s office which just makes them think, ‘oh, I guess they are not in that much pain then’. We create a facade to function at work. We create a facade to be sociable. All to ease social interactions. To make others more comfortable. With maybe the bland layer of truth but nothing more. Nothing to scrape past the surface or anything.
To a degree it is up to Us how much we disclose our illness and to who we disclose our illness. And knowing the stigma and discrimination we can face, we may be very careful on who we choose and how much we disclose. And that does make us quite Unseen. But if we do so choose to say more and be serious about our existence then often we face the consequences of that. We are seen as ‘Always complaining. Always talking about our illness. Always focusing on the negative. We should just be more positive…. and so much more.’
So we remain unseen. And people judge us on our Appearance. We LOOK fine so we MUST be fine. We must be BETTER. Or not as sick as we let on. Or just lazy. Or clearly lying. Faking it.
Invisible: Be quiet
Because that is the way it is. We are expected to be invisible. Chronically ill but Be Just the Same as Everyone Else. Perform the same way. Don’t make a fuss. Work like everybody else at the same productivity. How dare you use sick days. How dare you ask for accommodation which we then turn down. If you go on a short term leave we fully expect you to come back Completely Cured and perform perfectly from then on. What a slacker you are… and just a malinger. If you can’t we will make your life miserable until you leave. Or you get too sick to function.
Invisible: You don’t matter
If you become disabled, well then, society doesn’t care about you at all then. You are a non entity. You get income… less than a living wage, of course, which when budget cuts come that will be a likely target because disabled people do not actually matter. Hell, with the pandemic people actually said ONLY elderly and disabled people would be affected… so… what did it matter? Who cares? Their lives don’t matter.
With an invisible disability we can ‘pass’ as normal which may be beneficial because people see you as a Person. Until you use a disabled parking spot and WHOA how dare you? You look healthy so you get verbal abuse or worse because they assume you are healthy.
And if they know you are on disability well then you are faking it to scam the system… for all that loads of money you can barely even live on. Or you are lazy and just do not want to work. You Look Fine so you must be faking it to scam the system.
We do not have to validate anything to any random person
We do not have anything to prove to anyone. Regardless of their stigma we still have to deal with our invisible illnesses and disability no matter what they think. So I never much care what people think. However, I did at one time and at one time it mattered because I absorbed that stigma so much I Believed it. I was worthless. I was a failure. I did suck. And I believed it so much I became that. It destroyed my self-worth and I became severely depressed. All because I took in all that negativity spewed out and instead of discarding it as the insignificant ignorance my brain just ate it all up. Because I already felt guilty for not being able to achieve my Own standards so why not take all the blame for everything, even things like being ill that I had no control over at all?
I am not like that now. I had to build myself back up. I may have low functionality but I am a person that matters. I have value. I have worth. I can’t do much but I try to do what I can when I can and it is Meaningful to me. Society may not value me but I value myself. They may not see my worth but I am not invisible. I am not Just a set of illnesses. I am a complete person trying to have a semblance of a life.
According to the latest statistics around 13.7% of Canadian’s are living with a disability.Disability Credit Canada
- 1 in 10 people in Canada of working age have a disability
- 10 disability types identified in latest Canadian survey on disability study are: seeing, hearing, mobility, flexibility, dexterity, pain, learning, developmental, mental/psychological, and memory
- People living with a disability are twice as likely to live below the poverty line and 15% live in poverty
- Only 10% of Canadians living with a disability are fully included within society
- More than 1.4 million adults of working age need help with every day activities
- 48% of all respondents surveyed believed they would be more likely to climb the corporate ladder if they kept their disability a secret
- adults with disabilities have lower median household income
- 2012 CRHC report – disabled men (15-64 age group) earn $9557 less than adult males in same age group who don’t have disabilities. Women (15-64 age group) earn $8853 less.
- unemployment rate for people with disabilities – 8.6% vs. Canadian average of 6.3%
And when you judge people you have to understand everyone eventually gets some illness. And the majority of them are invisible. And some of them are disabling. Would you like to be treated the way you have disregarded disabled people? How you have judged someone with an invisible illness? No. Of course not. No one would. Some perspective is required. Treat others, like you yourself want to be treated, I say. Have some empathy.