Why invisible disabilities are so difficult #4 and #3

By: Rachel

Why invisible disabilities are so difficult #4 and #3
#4 Invisible disabilities are hard because I feel like people don’t see the whole picture of me if they don’t know and because

#3 The invisible issues are often more stigmatized than visible issues.
 (See my last post for context about my experience with invisible disabilities.)
For #4 to make any sense,  I will to try to explain how I see disabilities. Lots of people don’t see it this way, and we can have differences of opinion!  But here’s how I see it: Disabilities aren’t negative; they are just a part of the person, like having blue eyes or being tall. Yes, they pose more challenges than eye color or height, and those challenges lead to better character if we let them. That way,  we’ll be more empathetic towards other people’s pain, and if we share our stories, we get rid of a lot of the stigma and fear associated with the differences that disabilities cause. The settings that we are in can be more or less “handicapping,” or in other words, the less Universal Design is used, the more limits are placed on those with disabilities.
Point #4 I don’t feel totally seen if someone doesn’t know about my invisible disabilities.
I feel like I can’t really explain myself if my symptoms come up. To a friend, I might say, “I’m having a bad BPD day. I feel like people are abandoning me, and I feel really clingy. I’m trying not to be clingy to you.” That would explain why I might do something “abnormal,” like rant about something that wouldn’t normally be seen as a big deal, or ask someone if we’re still friends, or text someone a lot.
But to someone I just met, who hasn’t read my blogs or heard me speak about Borderline and depression and anxiety, even though I’m trying reeeeeally hard to not overstep boundaries, I might slip up on an impulsive wish to share something about my life. I might say something that’s too deep for an acquaintance-level relationship (which I still don’t see the point of after years of therapy, but I try to respect it since everyone else sees the point of it), and I’m afraid that even one slip-up will scare the other person away, thinking I’m not good friendship material.
But if that person knew about Borderline, it would be more understanding, and I think that with more understanding comes more grace and margin for error. Another example is that I might not understand what a professor or boss is explaining to me, and in some cases I feel like it’s weird for me to ask.  But if they knew that I see things literally and need what people say to be pretty direct because of BPD, they would probably understand my questions more.
That was long.
#3 The reason for my symptoms is sometimes treated shamefully,  partly because of media,  teachers,  and just well-intentioned people who don’t understand.
I’ve done it too. I’ve made a joke about a mental illness before I understood the psychology behind it. We hear it all the time: the “terrible patholigies” of “these people” with this or that mental illness. I even had a professor who stated that “Borderlines want to ruin your day.” In the professional world, it’s common to keep your weaknesses to yourself because you don’t want your bosses to know or something.  (Another thing I don’t understand, because then we’d have a better understanding of each other, right? Maybe it’s just me.)
Therefore, I get a little nervous when I’m about to tell someone I have Borderline. I’m usually fine speaking in front of a room full of a hundred people, but when you’re waiting for one particular person’s reaction in a one-on-one conversation, it’s terrifying because this information could change the trajectory of our relationship, depending on what the other person believes about BPD.
So, having an invisible disability is hard because if I don’t disclose, I feel like we won’t get anywhere in really understanding each other, and if I do disclose, I might be seen in a negative light forever.  Maybe that’s me taking things to the extreme, but that’s what it feels like is at stake.
My solution? Force myself to tell others when I think they’re ready to hear it,  even if my voice is shaky and I say “ummm” a lot for the hope that it will be worth it later.

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