Until about eight years ago “disabled people” weren’t on my radar. It wasn’t that I didn’t know anyone who struggled, but the concept of being “disabled” didn’t quite register. I knew part of my paycheck went to help people who couldn’t work, and I was okay with that. I knew there were people in the world who couldn’t work and needed help. But I didn’t know them. I wasn’t one of them.
Then I met this funny, kind man online. We became friends, and eventually we fell in love. He was disabled. One of the invisible people my paychecks went to fund. I learned his story. I learned that he’d been hurt in a car accident. That he’d been rendered unable to work through no fault of his own. I understood. I empathized. We became closer. We met each other in person several times—it we had to travel nine hundred miles to do it. Or, rather, I did because he couldn’t at the time. However, through that—I saw him.
He wasn’t invisible anymore.
Three years later, I discovered something. I discovered the pain I’d been fighting had grown worse. I’d suffered pain when the weather changed since high school. No matter how many times they told me “tendonitis”, my bones knew differently. At first, I thought the pain in my back was because of a water skiing accident I’d had where my lower half twisted around almost 180 degrees to my upper half. Then I fell. I couldn’t walk for a few days after that, and my back (obviously) didn’t appreciate the impact.
It wasn’t the fall.
Eight years later, I learned I have a joint condition that’s degenerative and is going to be a lifelong fight. I stopped being able to work about five years ago—before the diagnosis. I have become one of the invisible people. I have learned that the world doesn’t want to see us. To many people, we are less than human. Particularly the insidious ones with invisible diseases. To the judge who denied me Disability because she didn’t believe I was in pain, I was a number on a docket. I was an inconvenience. I didn’t look crippled enough. I didn’t look scared enough. Maybe I didn’t look like I was in enough pain. But I wasn’t a human being. I was something lesser.
I don’t want your attention or your pity because this isn’t about me. There are thousands of invisible people. There are millions of invisible people. I don’t blame people for not recognizing us or that we are out here. I sure didn’t know eight years ago. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing and not understanding. I wish no one knew or understood. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
What I want, what my goal with this new blog series (which I am going to try and write on Fridays) is to take us invisible people out of the darkness. Make us visible again.
I am not invisible.