I was made aware that yesterday was the UN’s ‘International Day of Persons With Disabilities’ (much as the awareness is great, I think they could use a more catchy name!)
As you most likely know if you read my blog regularly, I suffer from several chronic (and invisible) illnesses. I have IBS, but this doesn’t really affect me day to day. Luckily, it is fairly mild and only flares up occasionally. More disabling are the ME, Fibromyalgia and TMJ I suffer from. If you’re unsure what any of these chronic illnesses are and what causes them, I have a lot of information on this page.
Being very unwell obviously has a hell of a lot of downsides, but one of the less obvious ones is that a lot of illnesses (chronic or otherwise) are ‘invisible’. What this means is that someone cannot tell by looking at you that you are unwell. I personally do not need to use a wheelchair (I just don’t get out much!), however I’ve spoken to people who have been tutted at or disapproved of even when out in public in their wheelchairs…you would think that this would make illness or disability ‘visible’ enough, but I’ve heard many tales of people seeing someone stand up from their wheelchair, and then thinking they are ‘phony’…! It seems to escape some people that you don’t just have to be paralysed to use a wheelchair, many people have very limited mobility or simply get exhausted standing upright for long.
There have been many stories on social media and the news this year about people receiving abuse – for example this woman who parked in a disabled spot and received abuse as she was seen walking. She could walk, but doing so was very difficult for her and caused her a lot of pain. For simply trying to nip into a supermarket, she was left a note telling her, “Being fat and ugly doesn’t count as a disability – park elsewhere”! I can’t begin to imagine how upset she must have been. It is often difficult enough going out in public when you feel very unwell, weak and vulnerable, without something like that happening to you.
So the point of this post was really to draw attention to the UN’s International Disability Day and spread awareness that not all illness or disability is visible. My advice if you are questioning whether or not someone is invisibly ill is, either get on with your day and don’t feel the need to judge, OR simply ask them. Show the same kindness, sensitivity and compassion you would to a loved one. I’m sure if asked politely, they would be more than happy to tell you what they are suffering with, and why they need extra help.
Put simply – just be kind.
Finally, Medicare First have put together an infographic about the most common invisible illnesses and disabilities. I have cut out the most relevant to me, below, but you can view the full version on their website here.
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