Most persons have a idea of what “disabled” looks like, and when this idea is challenged it causes a certain degree of cognitive dissonance. If your Invisible disability isn’tinstantly obvious, it must be imaginary, of course!The truth is that disabilities and illnesses come in so many dissimilar shapes and forms, and aren’t always visible on the outside. Just because a man may look healthy to you, it doesn’t mean they are.When I was 15 years old, I sustained a traumatic head injury involving three fractures to my skull. This injury caused a number of medical dificulties and ongoing debilitating symptoms. It has now been 5 years since my accident, and I still have impaired balance, dizziness, profound hearing loss to the left side, visual blackouts, and chronic fainting– historically ranging anywhere between 0 to 50-plus episodes in a single day.On the outside, I appear like any other healthy young woman of 20. But on the inside I am fighting a daily battle with my symptoms. This is only made worse by those who pass judgment and make assumptions about me.
When people find me unconscious in the street, I have woken up to remarks such as “typical drunk teenager” or “she’s probably on drugs.” I get the same remarks when I am struggling to keep my balance during a dizzy spell.I have been unlucky to faint into the road on a few occasions.I cannot drive for medical reasons, so I travel via taxi where possible. It’s best to avoid the nightmare that is public transport with a hidden invisible disability. When I do use public transport, I am likely to experience some kind of judgment or verbal abuse.Chronic fainting, dizziness and impaired balance make it unsafe for me to travel without a seat. But because my invisible disability isn’t visible, I have difficulty accessing the priority seating area. If I am already seated, but then the bus or train starts getting busier, I will hear things like:
“Why isn’t that girl giving her seat to the elderly gentleman? Young people have no respect these days. I hope she’s ashamed of herself.”If I get onto a busy bus or train, I may have to ask an able-bodied person for their seat.This has happened so many times that I am now often too sacred to ask for a seat when I need one. Even if I show my medical alert card, people refuse to believe me.I have felt so pressured by the dirty looks people give me when I don’t offer my seat to an elderly person that I have given up my chair and then fainted moments later. There are usually plenty of other able-bodied individuals who could have offered their seat, but because I am young everyone looks to me. It’s a horrible feeling.