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If People Didn't Judge Me for Having Invisible Disabilities

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In life we all have our tragedies, our sadness and worries. We all have our burdens, our sleepless nights. Life is never 100 percent easy for anyone. Those of us who have chronic illnesses tend to know that more than anything. We have to deal with our pain, in whatever form it takes, along with the daily issues of life, such as paying bills, etc.

So, if we all know we all struggle in our own ways, why do we continue to judge each other so easily? Yes, magazines dictate what beautiful means, what the ideal weight is, what the ideal job is, what the ideal home is, and so on. We with chronic illnesses fall in a different league. Hairstyles and makeup are often the last things on our list, as the importance of getting out of bed replaces that of elaborate grooming, and managing pain replaces filling our diary with social events.

Chronic illness covers a whole range of conditions, many of them invisible to the eye. I weigh 5 stone 3 / 73 pounds / 33 kilograms, so I’m skinny. My partner of 27 years sees the skeleton I am in the flesh, but outsiders see me wearing 3 coats and two jumpers, so I look “normal.” They don’t see my goosebumps from the cold, the blue veins and bones that show through my skin, the fragility of my hair due to malnutrition. They also don’t see my pain, the nights of morphine because I don’t know where to place my joints due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. They don’t see the discomfort of my venting tube, due to having gastroparesis, when any food feels like rubble in my stomach, and even liquid make me desperate to empty the alien-like feeling I have when anything enters my stomach.

And yet, when I pull into a disabled parking space, I get “the look” of judgement. Some even stare and shake their heads. If pain is bad I use a walking stick, which helps, but, if my upper body is bad, I can’t use a stick. Every step still causes agony, but nobody sees that pain. People just see a woman of 44 who does her best to smile, is polite, tries to make the most of the day, but has a disabled parking badge. They have “Why?” written on their faces, but they don’t ask, they just judge.

Such people can ruin your day, your week, your month. They can tear down self-esteem, crumble years of built up confidence and make you wish you didn’t exist. They can make you feel like you have to justify yourself, that you have to prove you’re sick, and why? They don’t know you. What does it matter to them? Do they go home with you and care for you – no, so they shouldn’t matter! But they do matter.

If they smiled and said “Hello,” how different my day would be. If they commented on the weather, or some general thing in life as I exited my car, how different my week would be, how much more manageable my pain would be. I might actually want to wake up in the morning; I might feel a little bit more self-esteem; I might feel a little more human, just by being accepted and not judged.

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Originally published: November 28, 2016
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