I know it's been a while since I've posted. I've actually had a lot to say but had to limit my time on the keyboard until I was fully recovered from surgery. Now that I am, I would like to share a little PSA (that's a public service announcement) about something we hear about and maybe some don't know exactly what it means: an invisible disability or in this case, a not so invisible disability.
Know me for ten minutes—maybe twenty, depending on the circumstances—and you know I have a bad back and live in chronic pain. Maybe you learned because I excused myself when explaining I need to sit down or you noticed me fidgeting while doing a little acupressure on my lower back. If I haven't told you and you somehow missed the myriad signs, I suppose you could be oblivious to my invisible disability.
It's true I don't walk with a limp. In fact, walking is one of the few things I can still do well. I don't always ask for help or a chair. I don't have a permit to park in a space with a wheelchair and I don't even own a wheelchair. But I'm clearly in pain when standing for more than ten minutes at a time, so I'm not so sure how even without the request for help, a permit, the wheelchair and limp that anyone can claim I have an invisible disability.
In fact, people are generally very accommodating. My back problems have gotten worse since I moved to Puerto Rico ten years ago (mostly age-related and 15 months ago I had a series of epidural blocks in my lower spine that damaged some nerves).
Whether I tell someone in English, "I have disc problems in my lower back" or in Spanish, "Tengo mucho dolor en my dorsal," they offer me a chair and ask if I need any help.
I find it's only people who are self-absorbed who don't need to see my wheelchair who could claim I have an invisible disability or know I have serious problems with pain.
Not to continually put Puerto Ricans on a pedestal but I rarely have to fidget or press into my lower back for long before someone notices I am terribly uncomfortable and a seat is offered to me.
But what if an invisible disability weren't so invisible after all?
I read something one of my Facebook friends posted this morning and it made me pretty mad. The reason I'm posting this is because I hope if you find yourself in the position of seeing someone who's clearly not comfortable, having difficulty or even seeming a little off, you'll reach out to them and see if they could use assistance.
Please don't wait until they're humiliated and please don't assume they're drunk and therefore aren't worthy of your help (as if that's a good excuse).
Carmen shouldn't have had to feel utter humiliation at an event where she was supposed to have fun. In case you don't know what MS is, it's multiple sclerosis. There are a few different types and the one Carmen has (or sounds like she has) is one of the more debilitating ones.