Just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean it’s not there

4 mins read

By Laura Kaponer

Having an invisible disability doesn’t make it any less real or hurt any less. It’s easy to judge something from the outside and make certain assumptions; just because someone is smiling doesn’t mean they are happy, and just because someone isn’t bedridden doesn’t mean they aren’t sick. There are so many different levels and ways of being sick, many of which may appear differently from what we are conditioned as a society to recognize as illness. 

Let’s start with the misconception that if you aren’t well enough to work, you aren’t well enough to enjoy life. The stresses, restrictions, expectations, and time commitments of employment can in no way compare to that of a social outing. While they are preferable, there are generally no hygiene requirements with friends. Additionally, social obligations are often more social options with plenty of flexibility regarding attendance, level of participation, start/end time, etc. 

I personally know many fine folks that do not work and are on disability for a multitude of reasons; and I was very briefly on disability. Being on disability does not mean you should never leave your home or attempt to enjoy life, yet far too often those on disability are shamed for doing so. 

“If you can go to the movies, you can have a job.” 

“If you can attend a comic book convention, you can have a job.” 

“If you can go out with your friends to do anything of amusement, you can have a job.”  

All those statements and so many more are based in ignorance.

If someone is sick and they manage to muster up the ability to do something that truly brings them joy, in what world is that wrong? Is said sick person meant to lock themselves in their home, sit in the dark and be devoid of anything that can even temporarily distract them from what they struggle with or suffer from? If this is true then what is the point of such fantastic organizations such as “Make a Wish”? Or why do celebrities visit hospitals to spend time with the sick? 

I’m here to let you know that someone can be ill, even on disability, and still enjoy life. Those two things can exist at the same time and very well should. Additionally, you don’t know what it took for the person to even make it out of the house for a few hours, and they most likely spent quite a bit of time “recovering” after the fact. So the next time you see someone with a disability or illness out and about, before you judge them maybe instead be happy for them.

Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate and blogger, as well as a volunteer with the local chapter of NAMI. You can find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5.

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