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Invisible Disabilities

Have you ever seen someone get out of a car that’s parked in a handicap parking spot and thought to yourself… “well, they don’t look handicapped!”. 

I’ll admit it. In the past I would have thought this too. 

But all disabilities are not visible! 

Hi, it’s me Shayne and that's what I want to share with you today - not all disabilities are visible. 

I gave you the main point right at the beginning. 

You could stop listening now…but I hope you don’t. 

I am just one person, but I have learned things over the years about having an invisible disability from my own experience. 

I want to be clear that I don’t speak for everyone with a disability, be it visible or invisible. I only speak from my own experience and perspective.

The range of disabilities in human beings is wide. 

There are many types and various causes. Intellectual. Developmental. Learning. Behavioral. Psychiatric. Hereditary. And so many many more. 

And within those categories each individual has different symptoms, different challenges, or different severities. 

If you saw someone who “didn’t look disabled” using services designated for helping those with disabilities and were enraged, surprised, hateful, curious, or indignant - it might be helpful to understand about visible and invisible disabilities.

 A visible disability is what you might automatically picture when you think of the term disability. 

Maybe you would think of a human being who is vision impaired or a human being who requires a wheelchair for mobility. 

These individuals have VISIBLE disabilities- a disability that can be seen.

The concept of an invisible disability might be new to you. It was new to me not long ago as well! 

An example I might use to explain it to you is one I read somewhere when I first heard the term.

It’s the picture of a house. A house that looks brand new - maybe a new coat of paint on the walls, new grass in the lawn, and a nice tv. 

The problem is there’s a water leak that you can’t see under the paint, or there’s a family of moles that have taken up residence in the yard and regularly dig up the grass, or the electrical is wired so you can’t use the air conditioning and the television at the same time! 

Invisible disability is like this. 

An individual might not LOOK like they have a disability, but you can’t always SEE the challenges they face. 

I have an invisible disability.

I actually have multiple challenges that can be considered disabilities.

I have been diagnosed with diabetes, chronic pain and multiple mental health diagnoses. 

My symptoms aren’t always apparent. If you met me on the street you probably wouldn’t know I am disabled.

My hyper vigilance, anxiety, fear, nightmares etc… from PTSD might not be obvious. 

My need for insulin and other medications and treatments for diabetes are private. 

My pain comes and goes. It flares up and I can’t get out of bed. It eases and I can be productive. 

I won’t attempt to list all of the conditions that can be an invisible disability or all the symptoms and struggles that can be hidden from the naked eye. 

To those who face the challenges of an invisible disability - my heart feels for you friend and fellow traveler- we all need to remember this

My Disability is Invisible- That Doesn’t Make It Imaginary! 

Just because our disabilities might not be able to be seen by others doesn’t make it something we made up. 

Your symptoms are real. 

Your pain is real. 

This IS hard. 

I know from experience that Struggling With An Invisible Disability Can Induce Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt. 

Often I struggle with doubts about whether my conditions should count as a disability. 

I think to myself - 

There are people who have it much worse… 

Am I exaggerating my symptoms …. 

Am I using my struggles for attention or as an excuse…

I have to remind myself as I want to remind you that - Having An Invisible Disability Does Not Mean Invalid Disability! 

Your pain is real. 

Your struggle is real.

Your symptoms are not less valid or real because they come and go or because they are mental health related. 

Your Disability Being Invisible Does Not Disqualify You From Asking For the Services You Deserve To Live A Full Life!   

I have often struggled with accepting help for my challenges.

When I first qualified for free mental health treatment, I felt guilty. 

When I applied for and was accepted for disability payments, I felt guilty. 

I have friends and loved ones who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, ADHD, and other conditions that make school difficult. They have told me that they feel guilty, or ashamed, or embarrassed, or self-hate because of the assistance they receive at school. 

But… We all need to remember that EVERYONE deserves the support they need to take care of themselves and to live a full life. 

Everyone with an invisible disability deserves support. 

Everyone with a visible disability deserves support. 

Everyone with a chronic illness deserves support. 

Everyone with a mental illness deserves support. 

But it’s true … Finding and getting help is hard for anyone with a disability. 

Having An Invisible Disability Can Make it extra Hard To Get The Services You Need. 

Because our symptoms are sporadic or underneath the surface it can be a horrific process to get the services we need. 

Doctors might not believe us about the seriousness of our symptoms. 

Governmental agencies might not recognize our disability as worthy of aid.

Family members and loved ones might tell us to just get it together or stop exaggerating. 

It can be exhausting 

When I am depressed, or exhausted from not sleeping, or in a flare up of pain I do not have extra energy for extra effort to fight for help. 

It can be frustrating trying to jump through the right hoops. It can be confusing When my brain is foggy and my anxiety is out of control I don’t have the mental clarity to keep everything in order!

It can be embarrassing having to outline and rehash how your daily life is affected by your condition. 

It can be upsetting talking about the trauma that caused my PTSD over and over again, talking about my weight, talking about my personal life - it’s re-traumatizing.

The struggle is REAL!

I think the next thing I have to say is: Disabled People Are The Only Experts On Disability!

This part is for everyone - for those with disabilities, for doctors, for caseworkers, for therapists, for friends, for family members, and for society! 

To my friends who are living with an invisible disability 

I believe you. 

If you are struggling you are struggling. Don’t give up on finding the support you need. The support you deserve. You are the expert on your life. You know the challenges you are facing. Fight for yourself! 

And if you can’t fight for yourself, find someone who will fight with or for you! 

To the professional listening  you have a hard job. I recognize that. You see a lot of patients. You deal with a lot of red tape. 

But you too can choose to fight for those with disabilities, whether visible or invisible. 

One of the most frustrating parts of my fight for assistance in discovering and dealing with my disability was that doctors just wanted to give me a pill for one symptom and send me on my way. 

Doctors be bold, dig deeper, fight for your patient!

Insurance companies- oh don’t get me started on you. 

Family members and friends and society I’ll give you this thought:

Treat people like human beings 

You want to know How you should Treat a person With an Invisible Disability? 

You want to know How you should Treat a person with a Visible disability ? 

Treat everyone like the valuable, worthy, precious soul that they are - because disabled or not we are all human beings.

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