I’m not. This pertains to the concept of ‘invisible illnesses’ and the huge discriminatory issues surrounding it. From personal experience, I’ve had many pass off judgement with either snide comments such as ‘can’t you just use inhalers?’ or people making me feel like I committed a crime for parking in a disabled space.
I do my hair and I do my make up every day. Of course I look fine! I have a mask on, but behind that mask, it may take me longer to get ready in the morning because on some days, my breathlessness and wheezing can be out of control. I remember being in London and even when I first moved back home to Aberdeen – the sheer effort it took just to get ready, to shower or to get on the tube to work felt like I was in a marathon with half the lung capacity as ‘normal’ people. Constantly coughing and trying to get oxygen was a task in itself. Walking on lunch breaks with colleagues also felt like a massive effort and I have a distinct memory of returning to work on lunch break and stopping at the bridge because I felt like ran out of oxygen. A kind colleague stayed with me until I could get my breath back from what was already a slow walk. Oh and fainting at work and being wheeled off to the medical room! The struggles are real and no one should be in a position to judge anything.
On the surface, things can look fine, but there’s an endless depth below the surface, where you wouldn’t know or care to understand the complexities of living with a chronic condition. The medications you have to take, the social activities you have to avoid, the weather monitoring maniac you become, the hassles of travelling with a big chunky nebuliser machine wherever you go, the exacting nutritional requirements, the constant soul-searching for remedies and cures… it can go on.
In fact, one such individual who suffers from ulcerative colitis, sums up an experience perfectly in her More than Meets the Eye campaign. And I agree. She wrote in an open letter to those who judge and her experience of using a disabled access toilet:
“I know you saw me running in with my able-bodied legs and all. You saw me opening the door with my two working arms. Without any visible sign of disability. My lack of wheelchair may have suggested to you that I was some lazy cow who didn’t care. You may have seen my face blushing I caught your eye and assumed I was showing guilt. You tutted loudly”
For the millions out there who do suffer an invisible illness, I believe we want the same thing, which is more recognition, awareness and equal, fair treatment. I emphasise the last part, because we don’t wish for special treatment, we aim for an understanding and empathy to help us navigate through life easier, because it’s hard enough already living with a chronic disease. As Sam, pointed out in her story above, no one expects people to be educated on every single disability out there, but rather to think twice before judging.
I’ve read stories and stories and I’m disappointed that so many would judge, because for whatever reason, they really are suffering inside. From amputees to those with a colostomy bag hidden underneath clothes and many others, the reasons are legitimate and nobody should take that right away from them to be able to lead a normal life. It’s not a luxury to have access to something, it’s a necessity to live life normally. We don’t have the red carpet rolled out for us, we just want a stable carpet laid beneath us to keep our feet firmly on the ground.
According to http://www.disabled-world.com and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.
Generally seeing a person in a wheelchair, wearing a hearing aid, or carrying a white cane tells us a person may be disabled. But there are invisible disabilities that make daily living more difficult for many people worldwide.
Invisible disabilities can include chronic illnesses such as renal failure, diabetes, and sleep disorders etc if those diseases significantly impair normal activities of daily living.
Mental Health issues such as depression, stress, anxiety and bipolar can affect individuals and their families. The general public can be totally unaware that the individual is suffering and just assume and label as “miserable”, “attention seeking”, “pessimistic” and given a wide berth, when what they may just need is a bit of understanding and support.
Therefore, recognition and awareness of such illnesses are important and for that reason, I join #morethanmeetstheeye campaign. Join with me and spread the awareness 🙂