I’ve had chronic pain my whole life, and am technically handicapped. But because of where my pain is (my wrists and hands), I don’t necessarily look disabled … which leads to some interesting situations in daily life. Here are the top 13 things I’ve found that suck about being invisibly disabled (and thanks to my husband for helping me focus the list!):
1. People look at me weird when I pre-board an airplane. This includes gate agents, flight attendants, and random passengers.
2. The stink-eye I get for sitting down on the subway when it’s crowded. It makes me kind of want to tattoo on my forehead, “NO TRUST ME I’M ABOUT TO FALL OVER.” And also add a smaller tattoo—maybe on my cheek—that says “but I will stand up for an elderly person or someone on crutches, because come on.”
3. Ninety percent of the time it’s too painful to bother with makeup or pretty hairstyles. But sometimes I throw caution to the wind and do it up, and invariably a friend or acquaintance will act like being in pain and wanting to look cute are mutually exclusive.
4. Also on the appearance front: I’m thin. It’s part genetics and part lifestyle, and “lifestyle” includes “eh, eating is too much effort.” But if I had a nickel for every person who joked about the chronic pain diet, I wouldn’t have to worry about my out-of-pocket medical expenses.
5. Along those lines: MRIs. Oh, god, MRIs. Because every minute inside that machine is agonizing and expensive and panic-attack-inducing, but I keep doing them, because sometimes doctors actually find something on the MRI that’s useful.
6. I take drugs to get by –- drugs that frat boys take for fun. Which means that I’m probably on some DEA watch list, and doctors and pharmacists treat me like I’m an addict, and I don’t even want to take these pills to begin with.
7. Bumped into something? Tripped? Picked up something heavy, like my ten-pound Shih Tzu? That’ll be three hours on the couch with an ice pack.
8. Did absolutely nothing at all, but still woke up feeling like hell? That’ll be three hours on the couch with an ice pack.
9. Taking sick days when I don’t look or sound sick, and wondering if anyone believes me, but not wanting to make like Anne Hathaway in Les Mis to get my point across (also, because nerve, muscle, and joint pain doesn’t actually cause me to bust out in a tubercular cough).
10. If Bitchy Resting Face ever becomes an official medical diagnosis, I’ll be Patient Zero.
11. Hey, that’s nice that your cousin’s friend had something kind of like what I have except it only lasted for 17 days, not 17 years, and she fixed it with yoga and herbal tea. Not gonna work for me.
12. Explaining to people at a party why I’m not drinking (alcohol and my painkillers don't mix).
13. Not drinking.