I have been working on this a long time. It’s a bit of a long post but it’s really important to me. It’s easy for people to recognize physical differences. But most differences aren’t visible, especially if you don’t know the signs. This is super important to always remember because it’s easy for people to judge or make assumptions of people by what they see. I’m going to talk of some of my invisible challenges to help you understand. They are of course more than what I deal with but I can only talk of me and my experience. I think a big problem is so many people judge people and don’t even try to understand what is going on that they can’t see. And it’s a very big problem for those of us with problems communicating. We may not be able to express what’s going on so people will think we’re acting out. And even caregivers and doctors may be fast to blame our diagnosis instead of looking for a reason like pain that can be fixed. Actions are communication to even if you’re verbal. Body language can say a lot of what a person is going through if you try to understand.
So one thing is im nonverbal. You can’t see that. Even when I have a communication device most people think it’s a tablet for games. So people are always thinking I’m rude or at least deaf because I can’t talk. And when I’m making noise they think something is wrong with me even when I’m doing the best I can to ‘talk’. I don’t need to be judged by my lack of words, i do the best me can. Related to that is i have auditory processing problems so a lot of time I don’t understand what’s being said or that’s it’s to me. I may understand minutes later but then it’s to late.
Pain and fatigue are big invisible challenges. You can’t see them. Sometimes people think you’re being lazy or pretending to be unable to do something especially if sometimes you can. All kinds of ‘disabilities’ have pain and fatigue as big parts. Such as my cp and ms. There are days I can’t move literally because my body is fatigued, and there are days I barely move because everything hurts. Some people who don’t look physically different have these things to.
Anxiety and related stuff. I get anxiety attacks, panic attacks, intrusive thinks, and flashbacks and other stuff from PTSD and OCD. I’m not trying to be difficult or emotional or perfect or ignoring anyone. These things are very real and can take over my brain so that I’m stuck on something. I may not noticed anything around me. I may be obsessed trying to fix something or put in order or I may just sit there blank or crying. Or maybe I’m just look a bit distracted and then snap. It’s a lot to deal with and lots of people have these things and deal with them everyday but nobody knows because they smile and or hide. Depression also goes here.
Sensory processing problems. Lights, sounds, textures, smells are all easy to be painful. I’m not just picky because I won’t eat stuff or wear things. I’m not having a behavior problem when I’m running away and hiding or when I’m covering my ears and eyes and being loud not moving or even having a meltdown banging my head. I’m in lots of pain and my body is trying to protect me.
Vision problems. I have problems seeing even with my glasses. You can’t tell that by looking at me. But if I’m moving slow or not responding to something I see there’s a reason. My eyes act funny some from cp and from ms. It can take me a few minutes if at all to fully understand what I’m seeing. Especially if it involves words or something moving. A big problem with this for me is crossing streets. Especially before my service dog and even with her I mess up lots and get in the way of cars. People get mad like I’m doing it on purpose. I’m not and it scares me when I almost get hit.
Seizures. Yes some seizures are invisible or at least don’t look like seizures. Some seizures you may fall and or shake. But sometimes my body just gets stiff an my face blank. Or maybe my start blinking funny for a few seconds. Or My body just barely shake or jerk. But if I’m acting funny then I may have a had a seizure. It can make my head hurt or make me puke or just be really confused or tired. I may not be able to understand I had a seizure until way after it’s over but it will still affect me and so people around me should be understanding. Not thinking I’m rude staring or just acting silly.
There are also lots of other differences from different neurological things. My brain gets blank and I can’t think. I have problems making my body listen, sometimes it moves on it’s own or doesn’t move at all. I can’t remember something very long and get stuff easy confused. I can’t tell if I’m hungry or my blood sugar is low or I’m cold or other things, and until it’s figured out and fixed I’m uncomfortable and it shows. It’s like a baby, I don’t understand what’s wrong and I can’t say anything but if I cry or something else It lets people know i need help. Sometimes people think I’m mad at them and really I’m not I’m just in some sort of pain that I can’t explain.
You can’t see any of these things but it’s so easy to judge me by what you do see. I look like I’m lazy and bad and rude. I’m not. I’m working super hard to function even tho I’m in pain and having a hard time. And sometimes it’s to much for my brain and or body. People are a little nicer with me always being in the power wheelchair but not always. And even if so it’s not fair to everyone who has these things or others and don’t have a obvious physical problem. Anyway I just think people need to remember this. Because anyone can be having a invisible challenge or differences; a child with processing problems, a teen or young adult with pain and fatigue, a older person with anxiety issues. Or any combination. These things are not stereotypes or labels or excuses , they are real problems that affect real people. And you can’t see them. So instead of being upset at a person try to think of why they did what they did. We don’t need hate or judgement in this world. We need love and understanding and patience and acceptance. People are all different and that’s beautiful.