Many of my health conditions are invisible and something I encounter on a regular basis is people claiming I’m faking or exaggerating my illness. The invisible are often excluded from society when they are the most vulnerable, which is why Invisible Disabilities Awareness Week is so important.
This dedicated week aims to bring education, awareness and support during 13th-20th October and focuses on all types of invisible illnesses.
One thing which a lot of disabled people will resonate with are the issues around parking in Blue Badge Bays. To the everyday person, I look ‘normal’. Some days I can walk short distances so occasionally walk into coffee shops, but, I’ve found even getting my wheelchair out the car boot allows people enough time to judge my invisible condition. From stares to shouting, it doesn’t get easier when you are being told you don’t look disabled enough for society’s view. If you saw the reason I have the Blue Badge; my immense fatigue, pain, dizziness and dislocations, would people finally leave me alone?
The Spoon Theory
How do you explain an invisible symptom to others? Well, ‘The Spoon Theory’ is widely used in the chronic illness community to symbolise how much energy a person has left. The theory is, each spoon represents a portion of energy and each person has a limited amount of energy (or spoons!). Spoons can be used up on the smallest of tasks such as getting dressed, talking and watching television. Once the spoons have been used up for the day, that’s it, you can’t do anything else.
Metaphors like this help others understand symptoms, but I wanted to really capture the emotion of my conditions, which is why I started my own project.
As a creative person, I was thrilled when Hannah Todd Photography and Beauty By Belinda agreed to collaborate together with me on a project for Invisible Disabilities Awareness Week. We focused on three ideas; Masked, Trapped and Crumbling. For me, these three words resonated with living with an invisible illness the most. Belinda used her incredibly artistry whilst Hannah captured the true emotion of each picture. Using the medium of make-up and photography, I became visible again.
Do you have an invisible disability? Do you feel like your condition would be more accepted if it was visible?