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How becoming visible made me more invisible
Oliver is a disabled person in his late 20's. He has a diploma of higher education from the Royal Northern College of Music, and is currently studying for a BA Honours history degree with the Open University. He has a massive passion for the Tudor period of history, he also enjoys watching quizzes and history documentaries (particularly about theTudors and LGBTQ+ community) he loves being out in the countryside, building airfix and Lego models, and playing sport. You can find him on his blog at The Tudors Make Me Tic.
When people see me, they can see that I am disabled as I am a wheelchair user.
Yet so often it is presumed being a wheelchair user is my only disability, or indeed what is causing me the most challenges that particular day due to how society disables me.
Yes granted if I can't find a dropped kerb then I am disabled most in that moment by my physical impairment.
I have been a wheelchair user for about two years now. Before I became a wheelchair user, I was less visibly disabled. I certainly wasn't invisible, but less visible than I am now.
I am a Touretter (identity first language for having Tourette's syndrome) I've had tics since I was a young child, but they were mild. However, over the last five or so years my tics have become increasingly more severe. They became very visible, people could see and hear my tics, which are virtually constant to some degree. So I became more visible as a disabled person.
When I began to use a manual wheelchair, I became visibly disabled in a way that the public understood disability. They see a wheelchair user and know you’re disabled.
So, I'm visibly disabled in terms of being a wheelchair user and due to my tics.
Yet I am also invisibly disabled. I am autistic, severely mentally ill, and neurodivergent in other ways.
Whilst these are usually invisible disabilities, they can be visible at times. I have had public meltdowns, psychotic breakdowns, and public suicide attempts. Suddenly these things become visible, yet only for that time.
These disabilities are a massive part of my life, they are part of who I am as a person, and shape the way I live my life. Yet so often they now become ignored, or insignificant.
Seeing a psychiatrist, the other year who was only interested in prescribing medication for my tics. Even though I tried to explain to him that my mood swings, and anxiety were the main problem. However, no he insisted on prescribing medication for my tics against my wishes. Especially concerning considering it was an appointment about my mental health, not about my Tourette’s, and at no point did I express that I wanted medication for my tics, yet they were forced upon me.
In so many ways I now feel more invisible. People now see me as purely a wheelchair user, and a touretter. I am not saying this is bad to be seen as those things, far from it. However, for people to not think, and to not even want to believe that I am disabled in other ways makes me feel more invisible than ever.
Being autistic, mentally ill, and neurodivergent in other ways, is made challenging by an ableist and inaccessible world and society. I am expected to act and be neurotypical, yet I am not neurotypical, never have been, and never will be. Being neurodivergent in a world and society designed for neurotypical people is as disabling as steps is for me as a wheelchair user. Yet people do not think of accessibility for invisibly disabled people. Whilst that is true for invisibly disabled people without a visible disability, since becoming more prominently visibly disabled people purely focus on the visible aspects of me as a disabled person. Even when I am clearly expressing to them that I am wanting to know something in regard to my other disabilities.
It is as though people don’t realise that being visibly disabled doesn’t mean that’s your only disability. Many visibly disabled people are also invisibly disabled.
I really wish people would realise visible and invisible disabilities exist together. I wish that people wouldn’t ignore or brush aside my invisible disabilities. I also wish people wouldn’t decide to only focus on my visible disabilities, especially when I am talking about my invisible disabilities.
I want to be seen as autistic, mentally ill, neurodivergent, as well as being a wheelchair user, and a touretter.
Don’t make me feel more invisible than I already was.
Remember that disability isn’t a binary of being visibly or invisibly disabled, many of us do not fit that binary, so please do remember that, and take it into consideration.
What do you think? Share your experiences now.