I’ll bet everyone reading this knows what an invisible illness is. You might even have one. Or two! The guy yelling at you for parking illegally in handicapped spaces somehow has the good fortune of excellent health.
My illnesses all started out invisible, but as time went on required equipment. The first is diabetes. I’ve been diabetic for 16 years. Due to times of no insurance I have severe neuropathy. My neurologist claims he’s never seen someone with it so bad. I lost any feeling at all in the soles of my feet years ago. I started falling constantly because it felt like I was walking in marshmallow Fluff, I could never feel solid ground. I stopped driving.
I started using a power chair for long jaunts outside the house.
Then I started getting short of breath. I was finally diagnosed after two years with pulmonary hypertension. Now I’m on oxygen 24/7 and use the power chair everywhere but in the house. Suddenly my disabilities were very visible. No more ugly looks when we parked in handicapped. The world now felt I deserved it.
Gradually I noticed a change took place. Now my disabilities were no longer invisible, but I was becoming invisible.
I went to a big box electronics store looking to buy myself a new laptop. It wasn’t busy when I got there, being a summer weeknight. I headed to the computer department and noticed one other couple shopping there. A salesman came up to them and asked if they needed help. They said no thanks, we’re just looking.
I was ready to ask him a question as he was heading my way, but he walked right past me with no hello, just a minute, or even eye contact. Thirty minutes passed. The young couple got asked 2 more times if they needed help, they declined and left without purchasing anything. Now it’s just me and despite my asking them everyone is too busy to help me.
I finally found the manager, he basically said oh let me find someone.
I said no. It’s been 45 minutes that I’ve been ignored. Check your security tapes. I’ll be making my purchase online, through a different retailer. I’ve never set foot in that store again.
This kind of thing happens all the time. People look right past me as if I’m not there. I’m not someone you can accidentally not notice. I’ve even had people walk in to my chair, saying I didn’t see you. Seriously? My chair is huge and red, then there’s the oxygen hanging off the back. Pretty tough to miss.
I’ve gone from having invisible illnesses to becoming an invisible member of society. That makes me sad.