Hidden Illness, Hidden Judgement.

I’ve been told “everyone is judged” multiple times since being diagnosed with Lupus and it’s a statement that will always get on my last nerve. I agree, everyone is judged at some point in their lives, but it’s usually over things they can control and have the power to change. We are judged for every little thing we do or do not do, unless you have been judged for something beyond your control, left to feel like you are worthless, useless and at the bottom on society, do not tell me “everyone is judged”. I will not accept it and I will not accept it from a person who has never experienced life with a debilitating illness or disability.

In a bittersweet way, I have experienced life being both healthy and sick. I say bittersweet because I can take my mind back to how easy life was and how I used to be able to work long hours and do task after task. It wasn’t until I became sick that I realised that the world is catered for able bodied people and that society is judgemental. Earlier this year, I went to pick my prescription up, an abnormally large bag of pills for a 22 year old. I got on the empty bus with 3 other people, with my prescriptions in hand and sat on the seats that are dedicated to the elderly and disabled, to which a woman loudly said “I always save those seats for those who need them” to another passenger. That was my first experience of being judged by a stranger in public, the only reason I used those seats on that day was because I was in sheer agony, agony that cannot be seen. If I was in a wheelchair, would she have said the same thing? If I had crutches, would she have said it? I have heard many stories from others who suffer invisible illnesses, stories about how they are harassed and embarrassed by strangers when they use a disabled parking space despite being a blue badge holder, because the stranger can’t see anything wrong.

Judgement sticks with us, like it has for me with the woman on the bus, it doesn’t matter how much pain I’m in, I will now no longer use the seats for disabled people even though my illness is covered by the Disability Act and I have a right to use them. It imprints fear into us, there’s thousands, probably millions of invisible illnesses sufferers that choose not to leave their house for the fear of being judged, harassed and embarrassed by people who they’ve never met, by people that could never fathom the enormity of their health issues. The woman on the bus looked at me as a healthy but lazy 22 year old woman who couldn’t be bothered to walk to the seats for able-bodied people.

I’m tired of it, sick and tired of people being judged because they are different. People have lost the ability to have compassion, we are a self-centred, unsympathetic and judgemental society. I was watching a day-time programme and they had a woman on with one arm, she stated parents shy their children away from her in case they find it scary. Why aren’t parents teaching their children that no two people are the same? Why are they not teaching their children about disabilities? Why as a society are we tolerating this behaviour to the sick and disabled?

The title of this post says ‘hidden judgement’ because, unless you’ve been through it or have a close friend or family go through it, it is hidden. Able-bodied people are oblivious to it, why wouldn’t they be? They aren’t sick or disabled, the world is an easy place for them. They don’t have to strategically plan days out or holidays, making sure the establishment has disabled access and if the transport is sufficient for their needs. Their lives don’t revolve around countless hospital appointments, medication and never ending pain. They can leave the house without fear of being embarrassed by strangers. But, it is an issue to them and an issue that can be helped if they just opened their narrow minds. It isn’t the able-bodied people, the wealthy or those who claim to be understanding that I see offering a helping hand to those in need, it’s the people with nothing but the clothes on their backs or the people who are at breaking point with their own issues that offer that helping hand or shoulder to cry on.

I don’t understand how people shy away from disabilities or illness, is it because their scared and don’t know how to confront it? There’s nothing to confront, you treat the disabled or sick person how you would anyone else. How difficult is it to not judge a person? What happened to equality? All they want is to be treated the same, to not feel like their at the bottom in society and to not live in fear.

I now understand that it’s not healthy, able-bodied people that make sacrifices but those who suffer illness or disability. Frightened to cancel plans with their own family or friends for the fear of upsetting them, forcing themselves through social events or activities when all they want to do is be within their home comforts with painkillers. I have seen people get frustrated and angry with me for cancelling plans, because they cannot see the reason I have given for cancelling.

Living with illness or disability is isolating and often dark enough without the added judgement from strangers or even people close to us. As a society we need to embrace and celebrate what makes each individual different, to not judge people for their differences and to treat the ill and disabled how you would treat anyone else.

 

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