Tag Archives: hidden illness

Please don’t judge how I eat my bread

How often are we reminded “not all disabilities are visible”? Yet I’ve heard too many stories of people who need to use the accessible toilet being tutted at as they exit. You can’t see a stoma, you can’t see urinary urgency, you can’t see menorrhagia – it’s none of your business why someone needs to use the accessible toilet.

Have you ever given the person stepping out of their car in the “blue badge” car parking space a sideways glance? You can’t see COPD, you can’t see autism, you can’t see chronic fatigue. There are plenty of people who need to use the disabled spaces who don’t use a wheelchair, it’s not your place to police of the blue badge scheme.

I felt mortified as I nibbled the inner soft section of my bread roll when in a posh restaurant. I repositioned the crusty portions back together because I felt embarrassed I couldn’t finish the beautiful handmade roll. I don’t know what the chef thought when the waitress took my plate back to the kitchen. They probably thought I was just another fussy customer, I doubt they guessed I had a fractured jaw! Sucking the soft inner portion of the bread caused excruciating pain, there was no way I could chew the crust! (I didn’t know I had a fractured jaw at the time – I wouldn’t have gone to a posh restaurant if I’d known!)

Do you feel frustrated with your grumpy colleague?

Did you think the lady in front of you at the checkout overreacted when the cashier made a mistake?

Do you wonder why that person never joins in at your hobby group?

Perhaps you think your neighbour is a bit odd? You maybe fed up of them not cutting their hedge/parking their car in an awkward position/being loud late at night etc…

Maybe you think there’s no excuse for rudeness but my point is that we can never truly know what’s going on for someone else. All sorts of things can make someone act in a particular way but who are we to judge someone else?

You know what I really hate?! People who tailgate! But you know what? I’ve stopped judging them. I don’t know what’s happened to make them try to push me along the road faster than the speed limit. Maybe they’re trying to get a labouring woman to hospital? Maybe their dog threw-up before they left for work and made them late and their boss will unreasonably fire them for being late once? I could curse and get angry but why waste my energy?

I’m often asked why I’m so quiet. It’s because I’m listening. Everyone has a unique story to tell. I’m fed up of being judged. Listening to each other leads to understand, understanding leads to compassion. How much nicer is to have compassion for one another rather than judgment? All we need to do is listen!

Perhaps you could ask your colleague if there’s anything you could do to lighten their load? They might open up about why they’re feeling grumpy, they might just tell you to ***off but the fact that you tried but be the best thing that happened to them that day!

Instead of tightening you clique at your hobby group, invite the shy attendee in, they might not say much so what’s the harm? Inclusion rather than exclusion is so much kinder.

That awkward neighbour?! I think it’s safe to say, most people have at least one tricky neighbour! Sometimes you need to think outside the box! Perhaps take round a bottle of wine or invite them for a BBQ? At some point, try to talk about the tricky issue but remember, until you hear their story, try not to make assumptions, you don’t know why they’re behaving the way they do!

Should I be glad my illness is invisible?

I have read a lot of blogs and articles with people outraged that people have no understanding about invisible illnesses. As a mental health blogger it’s easy for me to climb on the bandwagon but as usual I like to ponder things from a different angle. Mental illness by no means has the monopoly, most cancers, diabetes and most illnesses involving internal organs are on the list of invisible illness.
how-we-feel
Someone came to me the other day and told me about being jeered at in the street. He was confused about why but it made him angry and upset. The gentleman in question has a learning disability and the likelihood is that the way he was standing/walking/looking may have looked out of place/unusual, he is unaware that he looks different. Why would someone jeer at someone with an obvious disability? It’s plain cruel. It made me stop and think about how I feel about my illnesses being completely hidden.
I smile as I recall the number of times, while seriously unwell, even sectioned, in hospital, I was mistaken for a nurse on the ward. Most of the time, from my general behaviour and demeanour, no-one would have been able to tell the torture going on inside my head. No matter how unwell I’ve been I’ve always washed and dressed and tried to face the day.
chronic-illness
Sometimes mental illness is more apparent, for example if someone is unkempt, looking withdrawn or responding to stimuli other people cannot perceive. But most of the time mental illness is relatively hidden if not invisible.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
When I despair about having a hidden illness, am I seriously suggesting it’s better or easier when the illness or disability is on show? I have wept when I’ve watched documentaries about people with facial disfigurements, the stigma, the shame they feel and the impact this has on them day to day as they fear people staring, pointing and making judgements is totally undeserving. Katie Piper is a stunning example of someone who talks openly about what it’s like. I cannot begin to imagine how people manage a condition people can see.
Perhaps this is a blog about judgements people make.
judging-a-person
Why, whether obvious or hidden do people make assumptions and judgements about other people’s abilities and disabilities?
Why should I be afraid to park in the disabled bay? If I have a blue badge it’s because I need to park closer to the building, should it matter to other people why? The wheelchair is the universal sign for disability, it does not mean I have to be  in a wheelchair to use the space. People with conditions from autism to fibromyalgia, from COPD to paraplegia need to use disabled parking. Why is it anyone else’s business? If I have claimed a blue badge fraudulently, this is a matter between me and the authorities, not Joe Blogs Public.
if-you-could-see
On the flip side, just because someone has a visible illness, disability or condition, it seems that people make judgements about what they can and can’t do. For example, the gentleman I wrote about earlier (with the learning disability), we are working very hard with him to become more independent, which he is managing very well and it’s building his self esteem. But the people in our local shop assume he cannot do this and therefore insist on him giving them his shopping list so they pick items for him, it is well meaning but completely unnecessary and making him think he can’t do it!
The benefit of an invisible illness is that you can choose to keep it hidden, no-one else has to know unless you wish to tell them. The down side is, if people assume I’m ok, I do not get the help and support I need.
The stigma and discrimination experienced by someone with an invisible illness is due to lack of understanding and awareness that the illness exists, the assumption is, if you look normal, surely you should just get on with life?
The stigma and discrimination experienced by someone with an obvious illness is due to people making inaccurate judgements about something they think they understand but the reality is they do not understand at all.
Why do we place so much importance on appearance? We need to stop judging a book by its cover. Just because I look “normal” don’t assume I can just get on with life; if I look different, don’t assume I’m not capable.
be-curious