Feeling Unseen: Moving Through Life With An Invisible Disability

Feeling Unseen: Moving Through Life With An Invisible Disability

Oftentimes when the general public conjures up the idea of a disability, they imagine a physical indicator like a wheelchair, cane, limp, or other physical indicators related to disabilities. Although there are many people who have outward showing disabilities, there are many who whose disability cannot be seen or recognized by any physical sign.

An Invisible Disability Has Real Life Impacts

Invisible disability or hidden disability is an all-encompassing term for those with disabilities that cannot be immediately identifies this can include:  Chronic conditions such as Chronic Pain, Crohn’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Fibromyalgia, Mental Illness, Epilepsy, Lupus, Lyme disease, or Endometriosis. According to the World Health Organization, over 15% of the world identifies with having a hidden disability.

It may be frustrating to not have people understand your constant experience of fatigue, pain, dizziness, or cognitive impairments associated with your disability and some can often feel they are met with hostility by society at large.

It’s important to know that even though not all disabilities are visible, this doesn’t mean they don’t exist or do not have major real life impacts on those affected. In 2012, Statistics Canada reported, “an estimated 3.8 million adult Canadians reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability.”

There is an education gap in how many perceive disability and what kinds of inclusions and supports are needed to better address the needs for those living with invisible disabilities.

Feeling Unseen: Moving Through Life With An invisible Disability

Take Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis:

Many people with one of these illnesses do not show outward signs, but are inhibited when they are experience symptoms. Needing to use washroom facilities more regularly can be challenging especially when businesses have strict “Customer Only” practices for access to their facilities. What is a person to do when there is an emergency related to their condition? This can make someone feel prohibited from leaving the house, travelling, or socializing in normal ways. Employers might see people who have these illnesses as inattentive or distracted in their work, instead of reaching out to understand the best ways to work out the best solutions for their employees who have different needs because of the Crohn’s or colitis.

For many people with invisible disabilities, it can be challenging to discuss, as statements like “You look fine” can often make you feel like your disability is not as important, or even not considered at all. There are several organizations working to garner awareness around this issue, including a recent article and online campaign by Huffington Post which featured photographs and stories of those with invisible disabilities.

Disability Is Not A Defining Feature

Even if there is an attitude that you have to have visible signs to qualify as “disabled” does not take away from the feelings you are experiencing. Disability is not a defining feature of who you are as an individual, but rather a different way of moving throughout the world.

If you are experiencing an invisible disability, know that it’s okay to be seen. Whether at work, with friends, or out in the world, your condition is valid and should you need to get extra support you are entitled to it.

 

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