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  • Michael Rader

Invisible Disabilities & Effects

The problem with hidden disabilities, and their symptoms, is just that, they are hidden. This really is a causation for a plethora of problems not only with the individual suffering, but those around them as those individuals may not recognize that the sufferer is experiencing issues. It can also lead to others assuming, or thinking, that individual is over-exaggerating, pretending, or even using these invisible issues as excuses.

The stark reality is that as they become adults, the individual gets essentially numb and used to the associated conditions and it isn’t until they are usually exacerbated on a higher level that they start to show outwardly. These issues essentially lie in wait, not dormant or passive, but rather like a continuous burning fire and it isn’t until an accelerant is applied to that fire that you see the dragon rear up and take hold. Oft overlooked by everyone, and sometimes including the individual themselves, once they become outwardly prevalent it becomes hard for all to understand why it is just happening out of nowhere.

Take myself for instance. I spent years upon years doing physically demanding jobs. Jobs that had weird hours, long hours, random hours. Jobs that an average individual would be able to do or jobs that took a lot of demand. I even went long periods of time with no employment and busied myself going random places or random things to keep me continuously occupied. Yet due to the physical issues that come with FASD, it became harder and harder as the years passed.

I recently had a disability hearing where the judge was having a hard time understanding how I could go from working a physically demanding job with long hours and then suddenly I just couldn’t. Yet, this wasn’t the case as he attempted to frame it as. In actuality, I suffered invisibly for years upon years. Each passing year became harder and harder, and I finally reached the point where I just couldn’t handle it any longer. This was no sudden change. This was a gradual issue that was always with me. It isn’t just these disability judges that don’t understand this though. This is everyone from caregivers, employers, and health professionals to family, friends, and government organizations.

The same goes for the life long lasting effects of PTSD. For years upon years my PTSD and Trauma would be masked, and hidden, both by choice and subconsciously. This would be achieved by pretending nothing happened, self-deprecation, vices, constantly keeping myself busy doing something or going somewhere, or just even sleeping as much as possible. Yet, this is mis-understood a lot as being lazy, or just depressed, or even just lethargic. As I got older, I would need to face the reality of the Sexual Abuse that occurred, and this would cause my lapse into dysfunction. The harsh reality is that when you attempt to face the issues head on, you are going to have to essentially start rebuilding brick by brick.

This causes an increase in depression, stress, anxiety, and more. These invisible issues are not seen by others unless those parties communicate with you on a regular basis or live with you. It became harder and harder for me to be in public. My triggers became exacerbated. My fatigue gained control because I was no longer trying to fight it but allowing myself the recognition that I needed to take time to be down and essentially recharge.

One day, or night of socializing, can take days to recover from. It’s not really by choice but that you’re still learning to confront and control your inherent flight or fight instincts. One day of work can take a week to recover from because your body is no longer able to handle the demands. One bad night of sleep due to insomnia, or nightmares, or physical issues basically wipes out the next day because you’re in a constant battle to stay awake or keep falling asleep. The toll on the body and brain that is constantly happening can take a long time to recover from if even just a few hours are suffered. Two hours of basketball on a Saturday morning took close to three days for my body to physically not be in pain and exhausted. Yet a lot of people just mistook this as lazy.

How we address and allow ourselves to recover and heal plays a huge role into how we can rebound quicker in the future. Sometimes we will need several days to bounce back and sometimes we may only need a few hours of isolation or a nap. What comes along with the stressors though can also cause other physical issues that a normal person wouldn’t face on a regular basis as a reaction from stress. We need this time to take care of ourselves instead of pushing and pushing until we are so far down the rabbit hole that we see no other way out. It takes time and patience from everyone involved in the individuals life and questioning it, not believing it, telling the person they are just being lazy or even just “need some sun” all are more damaging in the long run.

The things we suffer in silence are never just suddenly appearing. They are things that have been a part of our lives for a long time, and we finally are either trying to heal and find ways of managing them better or just no longer have the capabilities of masking and hiding. To say this is rather sudden is to discount what the individual truly feels. We must find ways to work together and ensure that everyone involved understand this. Why would someone want to suffer in silence when they can be who they need to be and do what they can?

Thanks for reading and as always, remember your greatest advocate for you is yourself.

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