Understanding of Invisible Illness & Visible Disabilities

When you’re struggling with the frustrations of an invisible illness, it’s tempting to think, “If only people could see how sick I was, they’d understand.” While people may have a different understanding of visible disabilities or illnesses than they do for invisible ones, the understanding isn’t better or more. The judgement and criticism still come, just in different ways.

Despicable Memes is an excellent article that addresses some of the harmful beliefs about physical disabilities, particular people in wheelchairs. This particular article struck me because I saw so many parallels with the aspects of invisible illnesses that people struggle with. In particular,

  • If your symptoms or behaviors don’t fit with what other people expect of you, you’ll be judged.
  • When you speak up about how hurtful and damaging the comments are, you’ll be told you’re too sensitive.
  • People are only comfortable talking about illness or disability if the focus is on working hard, getting better, being strong, and overcoming strife.

Obviously, having a visible disability isn’t a breeze. I know that you know that. Still, I’ve seen plenty of people online say that they wish people could see their invisible disability so they’d understand it. I do not. Not only because I don’t want stares and pity or because I like being able to hide my illness when I want to, but because the grass is just as dry and brittle on the other side.

This month’s Headache Disorders & Migraine Blog Carnival, which I’m hosting here on September 8, will be devoted to invisible illness. Bloggers, if you’d like to share your thoughts on invisible illness, please read the call for submissions and send me your posts by 11:59 p.m. on Friday, September 5.