This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.
Hi, I’m Chris, an Autistic person in their mid-40s. Like many people, my disability is invisible. There’s millions of people with invisible disabilities.
Having a disability is hard, it’s even harder when people can’t see them.
In the context of acceptance, it can be even harder than those with visible disabilities.
People without lived experience of invisible disabilities can’t seem to understand them or the affect the disabilities have on those of us who have to cope with them. This makes life much harder than it has to be because we have to deal with both the effects of the disability and the dismissiveness of those who just don’t ‘get it’.
Looking at me you’d think I’m okay but on the inside life can be hell.
If my neighbours play their music too loud it literally hurts my ears. When they smoke, my sense of smell is so strong it makes me nauseated, even with all my windows closed.
What makes it even harder for people to get is that my mental health isn’t constant, some days are okay, some are bad and some are absolutely hellish.
With heightened senses I have two choices, try to adapt or medicate myself. Don’t misunderstand – there is no medication or ‘cure’ for Autism, it’s not a disease. But there are medications that lessen the amount of sensory input my brain has to deal with. Unfortunately that’s only a short term patch and has unwanted side-effects.
Trying to adapt to the world around me would be preferable but it’s a lot like asking a person with no legs to climb stairs, they can crawl up but it’s hard, slow and painful – not to mention cruel. .
My sensory issues cost me a lot in terms of quality of life and friends.
There are many activities that other people enjoy that I’m just not able to do. Socialising for even a short time requires advanced mental preparation to deal with and several days to recover from it. As for things like parties or a nightclubs, forget about it. For me, those places are sheer torture.
One of my best friends asked me to be his Best Man at his wedding – he means well but he really doesn’t get it. Sadly, I had to decline his offer. I felt awful. There was no way I would have been able to handle that, even medicated. Unfortunately, we don’t talk much anymore because he just didn’t (and still doesn’t) get it.
Remember, just because someone has a disability that’s not visible, doesn’t mean it’s imaginary.
It’s important for our mental health – those of us who have invisible conditions – that we are believed, treated with respect, and taken seriously. When we are treated dismissively it is not just hurtful, it causes a loss of trust in other people, in ourselves and can lead to psychological damage or even suicide. I know that last part all too well. I lost two friends to suicide because their mental health issues were never taken seriously.
Hi I’m Chris. I’m a 44 year old Autistic Person. Originally from California, I ran away to Australia as soon as I could. Raised in the country, life wasn’t easy with an invisible neurological difference especially when that difference wasn’t even widely known about. On top of that I didn’t even get a diagnosis until I was 39 years old. Looking back I now realise how miserable I was and how badly I was being treated by everyone. Looking forward I want to leave behind some small piece of myself that maybe, if I’m lucky, might make a positive impact.