It can be easy to make certain assumptions about someone looking in from the outside. Like an iceberg, the majority of what is happening lays far below the surface. A smile doesn’t always equate to joy. Illness doesn’t always appear as bedridden and frail.
Illness can present in a multitude of ways. Sometimes these ways aren’t always visible to the untrained eye.
There exists a misconception that if someone isn’t well enough to be employed, then they aren’t well enough to enjoy life. The stresses, expectations, and time commitments of employment can in no way compare to that of a social outing. Socialization may be the only reprieve someone gets from their illness. Sometimes it’s a necessary distraction for one’s survival.
There are countless people struggling with invisible disabilities. They may face employment restrictions not so obvious to those around them. Those who are fortunate enough to prove their invisible disability may receive benefits. These benefits are essential to the basic needs of survival. There’s a deep internal stigma about the relation between employment and a person’s self-worth.
Unemployment isn’t synonymous with the inability to experience joy in life—joy that can and does exist beyond being an employable individual. Yet far too often, those on disability are shamed for doing so. These hurtful judgments are rooted in ignorance.
Is it wrong if an ill individual can manage to muster up the ability to do something that truly brings them joy?
The outside world may never know what it took for that ill person to even make it out of the house for a few hours. It’s likely they spent quite a bit of time recovering after the fact.
Is it expected that an ill individual become a recluse devoid of any distraction from their suffering?
It has been said that a burden shared is halved. Perhaps the distraction of joy can lead to hope and a greater possibility for recovery—a recovery that will mean and look different to each person.
Having an invisible disability means carrying the burden of proof wherever that person may go. It means creating a support network to help manage the challenges and celebrate the victories. It means having the courage to face the outside world hoping for a level of acceptance that makes them feel safe. Having an invisible disability doesn’t make it any less real or any less painful.