Could it be mental/Are you sure it’s not in your mind
Oh, trust me, I am sure. I am positive, and believe me, there have almost certainly doctors who have disbelieved me already, and they’ve already asked me this. I’ve probably seen a counselor already—not because I’m crazy and pretending to be disabled, though. Because I’m coping with chronic pain or illness and no one believes me.
Please believe me when I say that there is no way that you can say this to someone with an invisible disability and not hurt and insult them. I promise you, that is not an option. It is hard enough coping with disabilities in an ableist world. People around you questioning your sanity for just talking about your disabilities? This renders the already difficult sickeningly impossible.
And by the way, even if your invisible disability is rooted in mental illness, we already know that this isn’t what you mean by “all in your mind.” You mean that they don’t really exist. Please, don’t say this.
Get over it/suck it up
Would you tell someone who had lost a limb to suck it up? Or demand that a paraplegic person in a wheelchair get over it? (If you would, I wonder how you got through this post to this point.) You can’t conquer disabilities with nothing but sheer willpower. If you could, almost no one would have them.
Just because people with invisible disabilities can “pass” doesn’t mean it should be any easier for us, but it does seem to create expectations in people without disabilities. Being unable to see “what’s wrong” with us allows you to normalize our experiences. The result is that you expect us to “get well” by eating healthy foods, exercising, or resting—or just by trying harder.
Have you tried ________ ?
Please, for the love of kittens, stop this.
Whatever the trendy natural cure is, believe me, someone will ask me if I’ve tried it to “cure” my debilitating, chronic neurological disorder. Turmeric, fresh ginger, gluten-free, kale, raw, sugar-free, green tea, blah blah blah. Please, please stop.
Similarly, please don’t flip this script and ask me something like this: “Oh, you have [my invisible disability]; you must have ________.” Consumed too much mercury, been vaccinated, been drinking, caffeine, blah, blah, blah. Please! This is even worse! You’re not only insulting all of science, you’re managing to blame me for being disabled. Again.
How could you be so sick at your age/you’re too young for something serious to be wrong with you
Clearly, since so many children are disabled and chronically ill, youth doesn’t mean you’re well. Disabilities and chronic pain are not reserved for older people. What I hear when you say this to me is the unspoken subtext at the end of your statement: so what’s wrong with you that this is happening to you now? I’m failing you and your expectations.
You’re just flaky/this is really just an excuse
I know, I break a lot of dates and appointments. Socially, I’m not the greatest. I am not trying to be flaky, but chronic pain is like that. Many people with an invisible disability are more sensitive outside, or in the heat, or in bright sunlight, or in the cold, or at night when they’re already tired. . .there are all kinds of ways that conditions affect people with invisible disabilities.
The bottom line is that we can’t always do everything we want to do. We can’t always move without pain. The greatest gift you can give us as friends is your understanding.
So, these are some of the things that people with invisible disabilities hear—sometimes daily. They break our spirits, hurt our hearts, and burden our already tested wills. I’m asking you to truly be allies, and to stop saying these things to us. I’m asking you to believe us.