When you meet us, you assume only one of my kids has a disability. My oldest uses a wheelchair and a communication device, so his disability is easy to see. My youngest has an invisible disability. He has learning and behavioral issues that can’t be seen just by looking at him.
As a mom, give me a physical disability all day, any day! I’ve learned how to navigate the world while pushing a wheelchair. I can bump the door with my hip, holding a tray, while pulling a wheelchair through the doorway. I can move the chair through some of the most crowded stores.
Mental health and emotional issues are a totally different ballgame. Trying to figure out why your child is throwing a fit in the middle of the store for no apparent reason is like solving a mystery. Trying to console him in the middle of a raging episode seems hopeless. Trying to understand what is going on in his little head when he doesn’t even understand is heartbreaking.
When we’re out in public, people are aware of our oldest. They see his wheelchair, and it’s apparent he has a disability. People help us. They are friendly with us. They talk to us.
If my youngest starts screaming in the middle of the store, it’s completely different. People don’t help us. They aren’t friendly to us. They don’t talk to us. In fact, they’re usually quite rude. They stare. They move away. They whisper to each other.
During those moments, I feel like they are judging us. I feel like they are assuming he’s just being a brat. I feel like they think I am a horrible mom. What they don’t see, what they don’t know, is that not only does his brother have a disability, but he does too. His is just invisible.
I hope that one day, mental health and mental illness is better understood. I hope we can all talk about it more and start removing the stigma. Awareness of mental illness brings us closer to acceptance. This video is about invisible disability. Use the term invisible disabilities to find other articles on this site.