The Invisible Disability
Having a disability can have its own set of challenges. Whether it be a vision loss, hearing impairment, or an issue with mobility, those with disabilities know the issues they face daily, including the stereotypical prejudices from others. There has been a long standing stigma attached to those with a disability. Their ability to complete everyday tasks is put into question often.
This invisible disability is not one many openly share. It is often hidden out of fear of judgement. It is one that can be as debilitating as a more commonly known disability. I’m talking about mental illness.
The issues categorized under mental illness are wide. They can range from depression and anxiety, eating disorders, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, to the more severe schizophrenia. With these mental illnesses, some can be so severe that they can become debilitating.
As a society, we forget that mental health issues are no different than the physical ailments we seek treatment for, yet many don’t seek help or share their illness because they are scared of people thinking they are weak or crazy. Luckily, those stereotypes are slowly diminishing.
With 1 in 5 adults in the United States having a disability, 1 in 25 have a mental illness that is considered a disability. For those who are disabled by a mental illness, finding and keeping a job can be a real challenge. Although there are no outward signs, some mental disabilities can make doing their job difficult.
Some may suffer from anxiety that prevents them from speaking in front of others, some may have hallucinations from something such as schizophrenia. Others may require frequent visits to a doctor which may require time off work. Even with the misconceptions surrounding physical disabilities, there are many more with mental illness disabilities.
Although I have never experienced a mental illness, I know many people who have. I have watched them struggle with depression and anxiety so severe that they can’t get out of bed. I have watched as someone I love struggled with the grips of an eating disorder for many years. I have seen first hand how someone dealing with hallucinations can be completely debilitated by them. Watching those I love suffer is heartbreaking. To think that much of their suffering is done in silence because of the shame they feel is the most heartbreaking of all.
Having the strength to openly share one’s disability is huge. Because of this I am so honored that Hayley Green has allowed me to share her story. Having the strength to be so open and honest about a mental illness allows for others to get a better understanding of her disability, an hopefully, straighten out some misconceptions.
Hayley has been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar 2, and anxiety disorder. When speaking with a Hayley, there were no outward signs of an existing disability, physically or mentally. She is bright, open and honest, and a very compassionate person. When talking with her during a recent staff meeting, she openly shared that the biggest challenges she faces with her disability are, “interacting with the public, acting “normal,”keeping a job, and dealing with stress.”
Although Hayley does not have the same challenges getting a job as someone with a physical disability, her ability to keep any job she gets has become a challenge for her. The need for a low stress, supportive environment is key to her success in the workplace. Her ideal work environment would allow her to be successful in anything she wanted to accomplish.
Although the opinions of others regarding her disability add a level of insecurity, Hayley knows her worth. If given the opportunity to tell a future employer about herself, Hayley explained that she was, “dedicated, a hard worker, and a fast learner.” She also shared that she is a great writer, good with components, and is self motivated.
Even though Hayley faces challenges which may cause others to give up, she pushes through with such strength. Her words of advice for others dealing with an invisible disability, “Don’t give up.” She goes on to share that, “ doing something you love is a great way to get through this.”
Even though someone with an invisible disability may not have outward physical signs does not mean their disability is non existent. It is also not a sign of weakness, nor is it something one should be afraid of. It is no different than a physical illness. Awareness is crucial to avoiding misconceptions and breaking the stereotypes that have kept those suffering with mental illness from being able to reach out.