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Why Being Questioned About Our Invisible Disabilities Is So Harmful

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It often feels like no one believes you have an invisible illness, or they doubt the severity of it because they can’t see it. Here are some of the things we hear:

“You don’t look sick.”

“Clearly, you’re faking it.”

“You were fine yesterday, so why are you canceling today?”

“You’re too young to be that ill.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“But you’re smiling, so you can’t be in pain.”

“Surely your medication will treat it.”

“At least it’s not cancer.”

“Change your diet and you’ll be fine.”

“I feel like that too.”

“Why don’t you exercise or do yoga?”

“Focus on changing your mindset.”

“You are just lazy.”

“Stop attention-seeking.”

“Just forget what happened.”

“It would help if you lost/gained weight.”

“That can’t be right as _____ has it and they are fine.”

“The list goes on and on.”

Living with an illness/disability is physically and mentally challenging. It can take things away from you and make you feel worthless. Those with an invisible illness or disability seem to get forgotten about, especially in the media, even with their inclusivity campaigns. Where are the stoma bags? Feeding tubes? Insulin ports?

We get discriminated against when using disabled toilets or parking when we have the right to use them, so awareness is extremely important. Many people struggle to go out in public because of this. Just because we use no visible aids does not mean we aren’t struggling inside.

You don’t have to fully understand our conditions, but at least try. Provide us with support instead of tearing us down. We can feel so alone, which is why our own acceptance is important, but it’s hard to do that if the world around us is judging.

Sometimes living a normal life can be difficult and the support we are provided is limited. PIP/ESA assessors (U.K. disability support) don’t fully understand our hidden fight, which can be really frustrating because they assume we are fit and healthy. I’m sure most of our insides would tell a different story.

My PIP was refused on my reassessment because I was smiling and opened a curtain so I was physically and mentally fine in their eyes. That wasn’t the case, though — I was having a good day. I’ve also become a pro at hiding my pain, like many others. Thank goodness I won my appeal, because we are not eligible for a council tax reduction, universal credit and support with our mortgage despite my husband being on minimum wage.

People with invisible disabilities don’t choose to have this life! It was given to us and we do our best. You cannot change the cards you are dealt, just the way you play the hand.

Please be kind.

Getty image by Thomazina.

Originally published: December 17, 2020
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