Dear Annie: A few years ago, after many, many years of going to doctors and having tests done, I found out that I am disabled. The only problem is that I don’t look disabled. I’m a young person, and the disability I suffer from is invisible. I often feel symptoms of imposter syndrome due to this, and I deny myself help. I have abandoned trying to find medicines that could help me because my body has proven to be resistant to many pain medications. I do not use my cane, and I surely won’t use the assistance of a wheelchair, should I need it.
Years of ridicule have left me exhausted, and I feel aged beyond my years. The public eye is far too judgmental for me to feel comfortable using the aids that I sometimes so desperately need, and this has led me to be a shut-in. I want to live my life freely, but I am too afraid of repercussions from appearing as a healthy young person “imitating the disabled.” For all of those battling the illnesses beyond visibility, how do we feel free to own our lives? – Invisibly Ill
Dear Invisibly Ill: In pain, afraid to live freely, ashamed to reach out for help – how incredibly isolated you must feel. But you’re not alone. In fact, I’m sure someone reading this has been nodding their head all the way through, recognizing their own story in your letter. Millions of Americans live with invisible or “nonapparent” disabilities, and I think you’d find great relief in talking with some of them. The Invisible Disabilities Association hosts an online support community at https://www.inspire.com/groups/invisible-disabilities-association. Another resource is the Invisible Disability Project, whose website is https://www.invisibledisabilityproject.org. You may not be able to reduce the physical hardships of your disability, but you can at least lighten the emotional burden.
Dear Annie: I’m writing about your advice to “My Own Mrs. Robinson,” who sought advice about his affair with his mother-in-law. I am not questioning the advice you gave him. I am just wondering why you didn’t slap down his astonishing claim that his marriage was great. I mean, really! – Antonia
Dear Antonia: I’m glad you brought this up. There were so many outrageous parts of that letter that I didn’t have time to get to them all!
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