When most people hear about disabilities and disabled people, the thought instantly goes to a picture of a person with physical challenges and disability, like limb impairment and wheelchair.
In reality, disability is much more than what is visually seen.
And it is easy to quick pass judgment when you don’t understand and what you can’t see.
Some people are dependable on medications to even walk, some can walk but not for long, others struggles to even get out of bed and every single day outdoor or doing anything they like is a sheer miracle.
Others might not see or hear, have learning or intellectual problems, some are in pain, but so used to it that they become these experts of masking it. As a fact, most people with invisible disabilities are more or less, experts of hiding their problems (but not always from free will)
as the stigma is so profound.
Having invisible disabilities seems especially difficult in hobbies like travel, photography and outdoor recreation, where ableism has a stronghold.
It seems almost taboo topics to speak of in many societies within these hobbies.
The biggest prejudice is that “if you can’t handle it, don’t do it”-referring to that a person with these invisible disabilities should stick to their “level” of abilities and “simpler” hobbies.
An unfortunate reaction that also, unfortunately, causes many with invisible disabilities to back off from these activities and even worse, to even grow a belief that only “capable” people can for example,
do travels, photography or be outdoors.
What can we do, together, to change this?
To begin, we need to have a better understanding of these disabilities,
we need more patience and
we need acceptance.
It is then, we can begin the process of inclusion.
Understanding these disabilities might help you and others to better grasp the struggles but also the strength it comes with it (you can for example in my bio, read how this have affected my life ):
Here are some invisible disabilities, with video’s in English and links to Swedish organizations in these areas.
(You can also read more at Hjärnfonden):
- Multiple sclerosis. MS is an autoimmune disorder.Although no one knows why, the immune system of someone with MS attacks myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerve cells. This nerve damage causes tingling and pain, numbness and weakness in limbs, vision loss, tremors, fatigue, dizziness, bowel and bladder problems, and many other symptoms. There is no cure, and for most people, MS gets progressively worse with time.More info here.
- Asperger’s syndrome. AS is a complex neurobiological brain disorder and part of the Autism Spectrum. Common characteristics can be a lack of empathy, problems with social interaction, an intense absorption with a special interest and cognitive dysfunctions. Having AS does not mean that a person is any less intelligent that the next person. In fact, many studies have shown that people with AS often have above average intelligence in specific areas. Read more about it here.
- Endometriosis. Endometriosis is a chronical medical condition that affects millions of women worldwide. There is no cure for it and it is a highly prevalent, high cost, high impact disease with an embarrassingly low profile in the public domain. Women with endometriosis continue to endure years of diagnostic delay, misunderstanding by the medical profession, and sub-optimal and ineffective treatments, resulting in a life of chronic pain and debilitation. More about it here.
- Anxiety. There is a difference between having a momentary anxiety and having it as a medical condition or more commonly known as Anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders are a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear that are usually long-lasting, sometimes focused on one object or situation but sometimes not.
A person may find that they have problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration/preoccupation with worry. Without treatment, anxiety disorders tend to remain. Not all anxiety is treatable. More about it here.
- Attention deficit( hyperactivity) disorder. ADD/ADHD is not a children’s mainstream popular diagnosis, it is a long life disorder that affects many in adult live as much as childhood.
ADHD/ADD is more common in boys than girls and some of the most common characteristics are problems with attention and concentration, time managing, impulsivity, hyperactivity (or hypoactivity for those with ADD) and procrastination. You can read more here.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder. PTSD describes a condition that can happen after we experienced something traumatic and scary. The traumatic event and experience can be of any kind and likewise crippling. With good support, we can experience extreme traumas and still not develop PTSD. Some seek for treatment, some don’t. In most cases, PTSD can be treated. More info here.
- Asthma. Asthma is a common long-term inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs.It is characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm.Symptoms include episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.Depending on the person they may become worse at night or with exercise.
Allergies, cold weather and other triggers can cause asthma. Read more here.
- Depression. Depression differs from sadness and it is a serious condition. It’s also, unfortunately, a common one. The World Health Organization characterizes depression as one of the most disabling disorders in the world, affecting roughly one in five women and one in ten men at some point in their lifetime. Depression is more than just feeling “down.” It is a serious illness caused by changes in brain chemistry. Find more about it here.
- Complex regional pain syndrome. CRPS is a rare long-term condition that often worsens with time. It is characterized by severe pain and sensitivity, swelling, and changes in the skin. It may initially affect one limb and then spread throughout the body; 35% of people affected report symptoms throughout their whole body. There is no cure and it is deadly, as many of its victims commit suicide. Read more about it here.
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. EDS is a group of inherited condition characterized by connective tissue has an altered structure, affecting among other things, skin, joints, ligaments and blood vessels. Symptoms can vary from mildly loose joints to life-threatening complications such as aortic dissection.Chronic pain or early osteoarthritis may also occur. You can read more here.
- Fibromyalgia. It took a long time for the medical community to recognize this as a real illness. Fibromyalgia mostly affects women and causes musculoskeletal pain that is widespread and sometimes severe. It can also cause shifts in mood, fatigue and memory problems. There are treatments, but no cure, for fibromyalgia. More info here.
- Panic Disorder. Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by recurrent unexpected panic attacks.Panic attacks are sudden periods of intense fear that may include sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, numbness, or a feeling that something really bad is going to happen.There may be ongoing worries about having further attacks and avoidance of places where attacks have occurred in the past.
The cause of panic disorder is unknown. Panic disorder often runs in families.Women are more often affected than men. You can read more here