Disabilities that can’t be seen


Hi, my name is Elaine. I have had 5 strokes, 4 knee surgeries, & have been diagnosed with PTSD. I have Stage 4 osteoarthritis. To look at me, you would not know anything was wrong with me, but there is. When I travel, I can’t sit in the middle of the aisle of the plane. I also have slurred speech & my balance is off, because of my strokes. People stare at me, assuming I am drunk.


I have osteoarthritis in both knees I have rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. My knees are so bad that I have to use a wheelchair when I’m out and about. I have fallen a couple of times which is scary because I can’t get up by myself because I’m morbidly obese in with my knees being bad.


Hi @ekcupp. Thanks for sharing and bringing up this topic! I know exactly what you mean.

As you can see in my intro family picture, my wife looks like a healthy 29 year-old. But she’s got chronic pain throughout her body and in hear feet, sometimes knees, which are issues that are invisible.

What we’ve learned is that in public places, it’s to our advantage to help people understand she’s disabled.

She has a 3-legged cane that folds into a stool.

So even if she doesn’t need the cane on a particular day, she brings it with her in public because:

  1. in case she does suddenly need it unexpectedly, and
  2. so that people will have a chance to treat her with compassion

We can’t change people to make them care or be nice. But we can give them the chance to choose compassion by making our invisible disabilities more visible. Whenever that’s practically possible.

This helps us and those around us.


@myjustgreatstuff That sounds so challenging. What have you done when you’ve fallen without a companion to help you up?


Sorry to hear that you are going through these struggles living with a mobility issue is not easy. Prayers that you don’t fall anymore. This is why u should always be nice and kind to people you don’t never know the battles they fight daily.

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My disabilities are also invisible most of the time. I have chronic pain in my hip and lower back area, I do have a limp if I’ve walked to much and really flared the pain. I also have neuropathy in my feet and have really been struggling with it. I’ve fallen numerous times at home and in the shower. It’s hard to drive because I have no feeling, but unfortunately my husband’s license is suspended from things he did 10 years ago. He’s trying hard to get it taken care of because I know before too long I won’t be able to drive at all. I cringe when I have to use handicap parking, people stare all the time, I guess cause I’m young looking and they don’t see what’s wrong.


Hey @harmony29. What do you think of the idea of bringing a cane? As a “just in case” and as a way to make your invisible disability visible so others have a chance to understand? For my wife, it’s worked well but I’m curious what you think of the idea.


Actually my husband got me a pink wheelchair yesterday, so now there will be no looky loos or should I say there shouldn’t be! My foot doctor said I need to realize I cannot do what I did last year and if I still wanted to be able to go that using a wheelchair will really be the route I need to take. I’m really excited as it’s a really good wheelchair, it folds up small for our small trunk, has the breast cancer pink ribbon (my best friend is going thru breast cancer right now) and has little compartments to store things. We don’t normally take anything in the park but our phones and passes/I.D. I do have a cane for days that I don’t need the wheelchair, just have to get my pride to take a backset and know I’m doing what’s best for me.

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Love the attitude. And big points for your awesome husband :man_superhero:.

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I have Sickle Cell Anemia, it’s a blood disorder that sometimes causes unbearable pain. Last year I was diagnosed with heart failure and Gout. I am so young but my body has lived through 40 years of filtering blood that was damaging my organs. I have several prescriptions but sometimes I get really tired or out of breath and also sometimes I have the Gout flare-ups and it’s painful to walk. I don’t have a handicap license plate but I have use some other accessible benefits and every time I’m questioned and asked for proof of disability. I think it its so unfair and a violation of privacy like HIPPA for people to ask someone to prove their disability. There needs to be a stop to people harassing others with invisible illnesses.