Invisible Disabilities 

September 3, 2016

What is an invisible disability?

The term invisible disabilities refers to symptoms such as debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. These are not always obvious to the onlooker, but can sometimes or always limit daily activities, range from mild challenges to severe. 

Invisible Disabilities Association

Disability does not mean disabled.  Most people with disabilities have productive lives.  The disability makes life more difficult.  But people find ways to accommodate their challenges.  

Interacting with Society and Relationships

In addition to the physical and emotional challenges, the impact of disability is not understood by family and community members.  We deal with ignorance every day.  Sometimes comments are an attempt to encourage.  Other times it’s judgment.  Either way, it’s disheartening.   People often don’t believe we have a disability.  We hear comments such as,”you don’t look sick,” ” you can do it if you’d only try harder,” “you can choose to be better,” “you could do this yesterday,” “it must be nice to stay home all day.”

Relationships are impacted by the individual’s limitations in functions.  They might cancel plans unexpectedly because they just can’t do it on that day.   They may need assistance  in activities of daily living and other care taking.  Families dissolve, friends drift away.

I have more than one chronic, invisible disabilities. Many are due to brain injury: aphasia, migraines, fatigues, linear thinking, problems understanding complex spoken directions or information, hating change, sensitivity to sensory input. Depression, anxiety, PTSD impact daily functioning.  I also have a seizure disorder, fortunately controlled currently. 

I wouldn’t choose what I go through.  If I had my way, I’d be like I was before I got hurt.  I’d be working, going to public events, running marathons.  I wouldn’t be so damn tired and struggling with basic things.  I wouldn’t get so tired getting out of bed is a struggle. This isn’t something I’d ever choose.

130 million Americans have chronic illness and costs $2.5 trillion dollars annually for impact on employment and health care.  Most of these illnesses are invisible.
Disabilities and Work

The majority of people with invisible disabilities work. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibites discrimination in hiring and requires employers to provide accommodations. The difficulty is in proving their is a disability.  They work in a variety of fields.

Medical science is finding new treatments and possible cures.  Medications can help control symptoms so people can have better quality of life.  My seizures are fully controlled by medications.  In some cases, surgery completely stops seizures.  Medical research continues to make advances towards possible cures or prevention of invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses.  

What Can You Do to Help

My Life- My hope 

There has been a lot of improvement since the accident five years ago.  I access public places and transportation.  I exercise again.  My seizures are controlled and I have fewer migraines.  I even cook again; although this is a challenging activity.  I haven’t burned spaghetti in several years.  But, I did explode a frozen side dish in the microwave yesterday.  I put in too much time by mistake.  I planned to take out the side dish and warm up some bread.  I forgot . It made a spectacular mess.  This is another change: I find things like that funny.  Frustrating but funny.  

I hope that someday I can find healing from the PTSD, depression, and anxiety.  I hope I will work again. One day, things will be better. We all have potential to be more than we are- even with disability.


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