The Problem With Black and White Thinking When it Comes to Disability
I sometimes like to use my blog to write out my feelings and recently this is one thing that has been on my mind. There is a real problem with black and white thinking when it comes to disability. People think that if someone uses a cane, a walker, a wheelchair or any other assistive device that they must be unable to walk or function without it and if they can on occasion, they don’t “really need it”.
I am here to tell you this is a false belief. There is nothing wrong with a person using a device all the time if that is what they need, so I am not talking about that. I am however talking about the fact that I sometimes need to use a cane when I am out and about or a motorized scooter in the store. I have had people give me dirty looks because I walk from my car to the scooter and sit down. They seem to scoff at me because I “walked there just fine”. In their eyes, I am abusing it and whats tops it off, I am overweight, so therefore, I must be using it because I am lazy (that is a whole other post for another day).
There are MANY invisible illnesses out there. I can’t even begin to name them all. One of the hardest parts of having one of these illnesses is the fact that those who have it often feel like they have to be ready to explain themselves to the nosey and judgmental public (and sadly some people have to explain it to those close to them all the time) when they use these carts or a transport chair or a cane. For most people who don’t live with it, disability is either black or white. You either are fully disabled or you are fully able-bodied. This is just simply not true and assumptions such as these can really hurt.
Why do I use a cane or the motorized cart sometimes? I use them because I suffer from chronic pain and neurological symptoms such as vertigo as well as extreme fatigue. I have an invisible illness. I have Lyme disease.
I write this because I know that I shouldn’t care about what others, especially perfect strangers, think of me, but I can’t help but feel their stares, sighs and dirty looks. I am young. I look healthy. People assume that the way I look is a direct sign of how I feel. Anyone with an invisible illness knows this is not logical.
I also write this because next week, (September 8-14, 2014) is Invisible Illness week. There are millions of people living with an invisible illness. It is heart-breaking to know that so many people suffer from this sort of judgement and not only have to battle their own bodies, daily chronic pain, and other disabling symptoms and still also battle the stigma that they are faking it, making it up, “just depressed”, “just need a little more exercise” or can’t possibly be that disabled because you sometimes see them on a good day (and trust me, there are some good days for most people with an invisible illness.)
What can you do to help those with an invisible illness?
The next time you see someone who looks healthy get into a motorized cart at the store, walk with a cane on occasion, get out of their car and walk inside with a disabled tag or use a transport chair away from home, instead of judging them based on how healthy you perceive them to be, offer to help or maybe just even smile at them. I can tell you, having an invisible illness not only means the illness doesn’t show to most people, but it can also make you feel invisible to society unless there is judgement being passed.
You can also help by spreading awareness. With the Ice Bucket Challenge spreading awareness and helping to get donations for ALS, it is easy to see how just a little bit of awareness can mean a lot to those effected by an illness. Donate to a cause that helps those with an invisible illness get medical help, assistive devices, or does medical research. If you can’t donate, spread awareness on social media. Share this Post and the others I will be writing next week. The more people that know how invisible illness effects those that suffer, the more likely it is that this stigma will disappear and people will no longer feel the need to be ready to explain themselves while trying to get through the day.
Thanks for listening and thanks for spreading awareness.