March 23, 2016
I suffer from fibromyalgia.
It’s an invisible condition that causes pain, cognitive impairment, fatigue, insomnia, depression, and a variety of inconveniences like hot flashes and excessive sweating. It’s a condition that still isn’t recognized by many doctors because it’s assumed to be a woman’s disease, and therefor entirely psychosomatic in some way.
I have thrown objects, though, and lost entire minutes of my life to sudden paralysis and thought loss. I have experienced the wracking pain and the inability to focus on anything. I have been wrestling with the slipperiness of thoughts for the last year as I’ve mentally prepped myself to force back into writing fiction, not just working on mathematical and design projects, and starting a Patreon to motivate me to work.
I am still fighting for recognition of my condition with Social Security in California. It’s been 4 years since I started, and all they really required was my medical records to “prove” that I’m in pain. Despite me clearly shaking and having been in an accident in 2010 thanks to my condition.
If you are able-bodied, please think long and hard about how you determine if someone is “disabled” or not. How you think about people who park in disabled spots. How you look at people who use wheelchairs, canes, crutches, or walkers. How you think about people who receive disability support from Social Security or other government agencies. What do they look like? What assumptions do you make? What should they look like, in your opinion?
If you do have assumptions about the disabled, you’re probably participating in the kind of pain this article outlines. If you think that I, a nearly 30 man with long hair and martial arts experience, who can on some days move with great grace, cannot ever require a cane, then you’re wrong. I live a life like that. I exist as walking evidence. I am also not the only one.
Remember that truth is almost always stranger than fiction, and it is a strange thing indeed in this day and age to think that perhaps your fellow humans, en masse, are not lying about themselves.
Disabilities can be visible or invisible to outsiders. A white tipped cane, hearing aid, or wheelchair might make a disability more apparent to others, more visible. Certain chromosomal or genetic differences may be noticeable even without such aids. An amputated limb is visible with or without prosthetic. However, most disabilities are invisible and can’t be readily recognized by untrained lay people.
All mental illnesses are invisible. So are most cancers; the hair loss and other signs we associate with cancer are results of the treatment in many cases. Traumatic brain injuries, epilepsy, and learning disabilities are invisible. Food allergies, dietary restrictions, and most chronic pain conditions are invisible too.
Sometimes if you’re lucky, you can get a picture of your insides. A brain scan, x-ray, or MRI can give visual proof of the unseen experience, can make the invisible visible. This may not help much with strangers, coworkers, and neighbors…
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