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Facing My Fears as a Person With Invisible Disabilities

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In our winter class, we have been talking about fear. This has led me to self-reflect and be truly honest about what I fear. I did recently write about fearing not truly living; while that is still my most prominent fear, if I’m being truly honest with myself there are a few more and I’m ready to be vulnerable and expose them.

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I fear being alone.

Having an invisible illness, or any disability can be a truly isolating experience. I realized that fully when I was alone in the ER this weekend. Sure, people were texting me, some people didn’t know, and my friend who was working in the hospital came and checked on me. But I was still alone on that gurney and I was scared. I was terrified they were going to have to do a scary procedure (luckily, they didn’t have to) and that I would be alone. Other people in the waiting room were pitying me; one woman blatantly said how sad it was that I was alone. I hate that I was alone there. I hate that I am alone in my apartment on weekends. I hate that I am single. I want to find love and friendship and I’m terrified that my disability will prevent that. Sure, I put on a brave face. Since I don’t want to be an inconvenience to anyone, if you ask me if you need to come while I’m in the hospital, I’ll probably tell you no. But if I’m being completely honest, I don’t mean it at all. I don’t want to be alone, it terrifies me.

I fear not being accepted.

I try so hard to be “normal.” I don’t want to be different, because society has a history of dismissing and belittling those with disabilities and disorders. I hate the looks I get when I wear a new brace, so I usually don’t do it. I am overly sensitive and self-conscious in public. I try to hide my disability as much as possible. I know it’s not healthy, but I’m still not at the level of self-acceptance where I can present myself to the world in my true form, fully confident. I’m working on getting there, but I’m not there yet.

I fear being defined by my disability.

I talk about my disability sometimes. I’m really working on talking about other things too. It’s hard when this is such a big part of my life, though. I am aware that I do it and that perhaps because I do it, people often define me by my disability.

I like to think I’m smart, funny and kind. I want to be defined by those things. I want to talk about those things. I want to build friendships from those things. But I also have a job — to advocate for this invisible disability. I want people to learn about it, so that the world is more aware and accepting. It’s a fine line to walk of advocacy, but not being defined by the disorder and I’m working on learning the boundaries.

I don’t think these fears are unique to me. I don’t think they are unique to people with disabilities either. I’m just being honest about them. I need to face these fears too. I need to learn to not be afraid of being alone; I need to learn to not be afraid of being accepted; I need to learn to not be afraid of being defined by something. Only I can choose to be affected by these fears. Hopefully, this article is the first step in facing them and moving past them.

Getty image by Lenanet.
Originally published: February 26, 2018
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