Invisible disabilities

I think that we’re all at least somewhat understanding when we see someone–child or adult–using crutches…wearing braces…in a wheelchair…walking with a white cane or a therapy dog. We’re willing to put aside our judgments…willing to give them a little more time…willing to make adaptions.

But what about those who have invisible disabilities? What then? Far too often, our willingness to suspend judgment and offer help fly out the window.

am one of those people. I have been living with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1976. I’ve been very blessed and am still mostly mobile. But there are times–especially if I am tired or the weather is hot–that my invisible disability requires me to take advantage of my handicap license plates to find a close parking spot. When people see me get out of my car–especially if I’m driving–I can often see them looking me over, making a judgment on whether I “deserve” that spot…or am I just another one of those individuals who abuse the system?

I have a grandson who also has some of those invisible disabilities. He requires medications to help him function effectively–but even with them, he sometimes gets over-exuberant and somewhat obnoxious. Yes, I know that simply being a teenager means that obnoxiousness is part of life, but sometimes my grandson simply cannot cope with the situation around him and has a meltdown. Again, I can see people looking at him and wondering why his parents don’t have better control over him…and I can see them thinking “My child would never get away with that!”

In many ways we are fortunate, he and I. We are both able to live and function pretty normally with those things that help us.

However, there are many other families that deal with much more difficult invisible disabilities…and who have found that often dealing with them is made more difficult by our health system and by people who only see the outside and who make immediate judgments.

There’s an excellent article here about what it’s like to be the parent of a mentally ill child. And there’s also a wonderful video (below) about putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

What if we were willing to live without being judgmental every day? What would it change? It would change us…and it would certainly change the lives of those many, many people who live every day with invisible disabilities.


One thought on “Invisible disabilities

  1. “When you are weak, you are strong.” What does this really mean? For those of us who have invisible disabilities, this is a haunting statement, yet it is one of the most liberating and powerful principles available to us. We want so desperately to look someone in the eye and say, “I’m doing great. How are you?” The reality is that when we are hurting, we are not doing great and we find it difficult, if not impossible, to look at someone in the eye and say, “I’m not doing well at all. Can you help me?” When we find someone who will listen to us and understand how we are struggling, it is a huge boost of strength.

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