So, I am one of the many people in the world who have invisible health problems. Some people only have one, some people have a lot. Some people are more effected by their one issue then another’s many issues. Which is why I’ve come to realise that, like sexuality and many other things, able-bodied and disabled isn’t “one or the other” it’s a spectrum. One I don’t have a clear spot in. Because I’m neither injured or sick enough to be disabled, nor will I ever be well enough to consider myself able-bodied. But I’m also one of those who have multiple health issues that effect me.
The reason I do not consider myself disabled is fairly simple. First my issues are relatively invisible, the only time you will see evidence of them is when I’m at work, where I get 2 very minor accommodations. And my accommodations make me seem lazy, rather then disabled/injured; I get to kneeling on a step ladder when standing still at certain tasks, and sit down on a stool for other tasks that would stress my lower leg. The only other effect is that certain activities trigger my asthma, but I either avoid those tasks, or I wear the proper protective equipment everyone else ignores. So, when I think disabled I think of a person who has health issues severe enough that it actively impedes on their daily life, not something they occasionally give a thought to.
But then you go to the normal side, and I don’t fit there either. Maybe if I had fewer, or different, issues I could consider myself normal. But my health issues do impact my life, and I do have to consider them in any plans I make. They just don’t usually significantly detour them. And even a couple years ago, my answer would have been different, before I realised that there was/could be a middle ground.
So, what are my health issues? To start with the least troublesome thing, allergies. I have a genetic predisposition to forming severe allergies. I haven’t so far, but it is something I’m concerned about, since I’m very sensitive to Tylenol (and anything else, like Buckley’s, that has acetaminophen in it), While I can handle small doses (like 200mg) with out very noticeable effect, more then that and I’m feeling at least 10x worse then before I took it, it’s hard to describe since I’ve only taken it when I was already sick (and the last time it made me extremely drowse in addition to feeling worse). I also have infrequent allergies that trigger my asthma immediately, though I am usually fine as soon as I remove myself from the triggering environment, or remove the allergen from my environment. The things that trigger this reaction are certain lip glosses or chap-sticks, certain scents (in any form), and a cleaner my store uses on their oven (sprayed into the air).
Then there is my sight, which isn’t bad when I use corrective lenses, but wearing glasses actually impacts my life a fair bit. It effects my depth perception (the glasses make things look a bit smaller and thus in a different spot when they leave my “corrected” field of view), I cannot see clearly without them, more then about 4-6 inches in front of me. Which makes it hard for me to go swimming, see small dangerous objects (or large ones if my glasses fall off), and gives me tunnel vision. In the winter I have to decide if I want to breath or see, since wearing a scarf causes my glasses to fog up, but not wearing on triggers some of my worst asthma attacks. My eyes are also fairly light sensitive, so if I’m wearing contacts I have to wear sunglasses, even when it’s completely overcast. And my glasses are expensive, first most frames are at least $100, then the basic lenses are usually the same price as the frames, then the traditional coatings I get (anti-glare, anti-scratch, anti-smudge) add more, then I get the transition lenses to combat my light sensitivity, which is also more. The last pair I got was at least $500. When I just get new lenses, it’s still more then $100. And as my eyes are still getting worse, that is an expense I’m going to be paying for regularly for the rest of my life (even if my eyes to finally stabilize, I’ll have to get new glasses when that pair wears out).
Then there is my mental illness, which is a lot better then it has been in 12 years, but still something that hampers me, probably only second to my asthma. Because Depression and Anxiety have really effected my life, and my anxiety is still trying to prevent me from doing necessary things (like getting to the doctor’s or dentist’s). But it’s not something that’s physically there, so I rarely have thoughts like “what if it just snaps one day”? like I do for the next two issues.
I have Plantar Fascitis, I had it for years before I got treatment, because it was ignored by my mother. I have what I call “atypical” plantar fascitis, because I have no heel pain, rather I get arch pain, either sharp stinging, or aching arch pain. Sometimes, I get hints that it’s going to be hurting, and I can act on it to prevent it from getting worse, other times, I take a step, and *poof* sharp agonizing pain. And my $400 custom orthotics help, but they aren’t prefect (and I think I’ll need to pop out another $400 next year (because I don’t have the money this year), since my feet have gotten a bit better, so they might need a better cast,) and so sometimes I have to stuff my shoes with something else, either to prevent movement above my foot, or to help support the arch by placing something between it and my arch support. Which stops the pain, sometimes (and sometimes, I have to do the complete opposite, and loosen my shoes….).
Then in march 2013 I fell and landed on some rough ice. My leg hurt and I went to the doctor’s, he said I just bruised the bone. Well I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it took 6 months and a new pair of shoes to get it to stop hurting, and it still occasionally ached. Now it’s acting up again. Which is so lovely *sarcasm*.
Last of all is my asthma. Technically, my symptoms aren’t severe, but it’s rather easy to trigger. I sweep/mop the floor at work too hard and poof I have an asthma attack. I walk the two minutes to work, and depending on the weather/temperature I can trigger an asthma attach. walking up hills, biking, running, all trigger asthma attacks really easily. pollution triggers horrible asthma attacks, where I’m coughing every couple seconds, and each time this happens it is worse, and takes more to stop it (okay I’ve only had it happen 3 times, but the last episode lasted 4 months. I think I’ve narrowed it down to high levels of pollution and wood smoke (like from forest fires, or really wet/cold summers)). My last big asthma attack even changed my symptoms a bit. Rather then just get tightness of the chest, or difficulty breathing, more frequently they are coughing asthma attacks. Which I didn’t suffer from before. And they don’t always respond to my inhaler, so I have to take advil cold and sinus, since it was the only thing that worked on my last big asthma attack. Which makes me feel like a friggin pill popper since I need to have them (and regular advil for random head aches or other pain) on me at all times, along with my inhaler.
So yeah, they are things people don’t see, things that make my life just hard enough I don’t consider myself normal, but they aren’t bad or visible enough for me to feel like I can call myself disabled. Especially since I have ways to fix/fight/control most of them.