#InvisiblyDisabledLooksLike cerebral palsy, anxiety and depression. It’s spending 9 years trying to “pass” as able-bodied to escape judgement, then feeling guilt at retaining your “passing privilege” for so long. It’s anxiety symptoms masquerading as perfectionism and achievement-striving. It’s being “functionally depressed” – working and writing after struggling to get out of bed. It’s the curious looks you receive because you’re verbal, don’t use mobility aids, and don’t live with an intellectual disability, so you can’t possibly have cerebral palsy. It’s faking extroversion, even though your heart is racing at the mere thought of speaking to people. It’s rushing across the street in heels, but being terrified you’ll lose your balance and fall. It’s a racing mind or a dulled mood hidden behind a bright smile. It’s constantly saving seats for those who “need it more.” It’s struggling to reconcile your advocacy with your personhood. It’s grappling with your self-image, feeling that you look more “disabled” than others perceive you.
But that’s not all.
It’s laughter, it’s love, it’s friendship, and it’s passion. It’s knowing that you have unconditional support from your friends and loved ones. It’s working hard to achieve your dreams and realizing that taking a step back from working tirelessly in pursuit of the “perfect future” is okay. It’s being gentle with yourself, even though you worry that that’s not what society expects of you. It’s fostering self-love and self-acceptance, understanding that your body and your mind are perfect as they are and that defying conventional beauty standards will help change the world for the better.
It’s watching the same movie for the hundredth time, staying up too late, wishing you could sleep in just five more minutes the next day, savoring a delicious meal, enjoying long conversations with friends, procrastinating on that essay, griping about that group presentation and grumbling about that study session. It’s occasionally going out, but usually staying in because the siren call of a relaxing binge-watching session, a heap of tasty snacks and a warm pair of pajamas is strong. It’s sometimes ignoring that professional recommendation to stretch, do breathing exercises or track your mood because you’d rather be doing anything else and you happen to be human. It’s not heroism. It’s not inspiration. It’s normalcy.
Invisibly disabled is living a fulfilling life, despite the misguided notion that disability is tragic. Invisibly disabled is my complicated, beautiful reality.