As a therapist with multiple sclerosis, and a Board member of the Invisible Disabilities Association, I can assure you that those with physical illnesses, esp hidden ones like cancer, ms, lupus, Crohn’s diseaes, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, etc., are not always treated with dignity. There are still people who will not hug someone with cancer for fear of “catching it”. An ms client was escorted from a grocery store after she fell into a display; the assumption was she was drunk, not that she fell because of balance problems. Read about my own experiences with people’s assumptions, misperceptions, and misunderstandings on my blog, ilikebeingsickanddisabled.com. and in my article for the government’s site, disability.gov, http://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2012/07/25/looks-can-be-deceiving/. Mental health issues are as much a part of invisible disability as physical health issues are. Parsing them dilutes the effectiveness of advocacy. Without ignoring the special needs of any group under the umbrella of “disabiltiy”, it might, at some point, be worthwhile to give up the “me” in exchange for the “us”.
The following assertion was made by Maxine Cunningham, founder and director of Empowered Walking Enterprise/Ministries. My response follows.
“Dignity is not a word that we often hear in connection with how we treat persons with a chronic mental illness – YES if you have cancer, ALS, multiple sclerosis, etc. Dignity and full personhood – that we might be whole.”
Kathe Skinner is a Relationship Coach specializing in coaching couples whose relationship is impacted by invisible disability. She lives in the Front Range of Colorado with her husband of 26 years, David, and their 2 hooligan cats, Petey & Lucy.
© 2012, Kathe Skinner