“What happened to you, then?”
There’s no ideal time to acquire a long-term chronic illness, but becoming disabled halfway through your undergraduate degree has to be up there in the Least Convenient Life Situations list. Adapting to the student experience whilst learning to live with a painful and debilitating neurological condition isn’t a walk in the park, especially when your illness is invisible. At times, looking like every other person around me was a blessing, but more often than not, it led to some really problematic encounters. Like others in my situation,
I’ve experienced all the usual judgements: people telling me I don’t look ill, I’m too young to need a seat on the bus, I shouldn’t be so lazy… the list goes on. Sadly, I was prepared for these comments. Those with invisible conditions have been facing these attitudes for years.
What I wasn’t prepared for was facing similar situations once I became a wheelchair user. Accepting that I needed a mobility aid at the ripe old age of twenty was difficult, but I naively consoled myself with the thought that at least now, maybe people would take my physical health needs more seriously. What didn’t cross my mind at this time, however, was that the girl sat in the wheelchair still didn’t look ‘ill enough’, to satisfy the curiosity of the general public.
During my first trips out of the house with George (the wheelchair; you always have to name the wheelchair), I was hyper-aware of the people around me. I felt people’s gazes on me as they slowly looked me up and down as if trying to identify my ailment, and I felt their shock and disbelief as I crossed my legs and they realised that no, I wasn’t paralysed. The thing that really baffled them the most though, and continues to baffle people today, was when I stood up from my wheelchair to transfer to a seat. The impulse to make light of it and exclaim ‘I’m healed!!! It’s a miracle!!!’ tempts me every single time.
To read the rest of this story, click on the link below:
Link to Invisible Illness story