Seeing is Believing!
An idiom that everyone has heard at some point in their life.
I bet, as a person with an invisible illness, reading that line made you a little frustrated and angry for a second! Those words cause an instant negative response within me, just reading it!
Although people will want to think otherwise, this thought of "seeing is believing" is so deeply ingrained into our society that people don't even know it is something they live by, but rather just adhere to it naturally.
Us sufferers of invisible illnesses have encountered this way of thinking many times in our lives with our illness. If someone can't see it, it doesn't exist. If someone looks healthy, they must be fine, no matter what they say otherwise. If the doctors don't see results on the tests they run, then the symptoms don't really exist. How disheartening and frustrating when, despite what they think, the symptoms are very real and very debilitating. Everyone can think we are fine, but that doesn't make our problem go away!
What people don't know is that there is more to that idiom and is actually only half of a quote. The whole quote is...
"Seeing is believing, but feeling is the truth." -Thomas Fuller
When I read this in its whole for the first time, I smiled...because Thomas Fuller was a wise man, who hit the nail square on the head. I mean, you may not be able to see something but you can feel it. I experience something no one can see or touch or taste or hear or smell every day. For me, my illness is the truth, no matter how many people treat it like it doesn't exist! I feel it every day, this is my reality and my world!
I actually have even been judged harshly by other disabled people before! The difference between the visibly disabled and the invisibly is that vast!
I wanted to write this post to share this story with you. I found this whole incident very amusing.
One time at a certain grocery store, I walked from my car (I didn’t have a handicap placard at the time and so we were parked quite some ways away) and collapsed into the only motorized scooter available. The scooter, which was literally the only one the store had, was located outside of the store so I was glad I didn't have to go far to get to it. This was quite lucky, since I had been running errands all morning and was starting to get disoriented and dizzy, so really needed the scooter in order to continue shopping.
(BTW: This was back when I was only mildly to moderately severe and could go on all day excursions. I would be exhausted and dizzy at the end of the trip then crash for a couple of days after, but at least all my errands were done. Oh! The good old days of four years ago when I could actually do things on my own and go places outside of the home frequently. Lol!)
My mother and my children, who were with me at the time, had caught up to me by then. My mom put my youngest daughter, then just able to sit up on her own, on my lap so I could carry her through the store. My mom then walked off to grab a basket and put my oldest daughter in that basket with her. As I was getting ready to disembark into the store a man with a limp, knee braces, and two canes walked up to me from a handicap spot and stopped me.
“Excuse me, miss,” he said, “I just came from that handicap spot, see!" Points at his car with a handicap placard clearly displayed then at me in the scooter, "I don’t mean to be rude but...are you actually disabled? I have just had double knee surgery so was hoping to use that.” This is word for word. I actually was quite impressed he had the courage to be so blunt about it. He was basically saying, I am obviously disabled and I don't think you really are so give me that!
“Oh!” I exclaimed, hopping off the scooter, despite being really dizzy and disoriented and probably not needing to walk anymore. I am the type of person who would always give up something for someone who says they need it, despite how much I need it myself. "Go ahead, sir," gesturing towards the scooter and handing off my youngest to my mother, who was watching the exchange.
Before he got on it, I did add, wanting him to understand I wasn't a selfish person using a disabled device when I was healthy or something, “I am disabled actually. I pass out if I walk too much, it’s a brain thing, but you can have the scooter. I think I have a bit more walking I can do before it becomes too serious.”
The man looked horrified when I said that and was instantly apologetic. “Oh, no,” he sputtered, obviously mortified, “it’s just sometimes I think people use these to entertain their children. You definitely need it more and had it first, so you get it. I wouldn’t want you to pass out,” he said, gesturing at the seat.
"Seriously, it is okay," I rebutted, "I can get a scooter at the next store. You said you needed it!"
"Well," the man admitted sheepishly, "my doctor did say I should walk when I can! It is just easier to use a scooter. I really don't need it! You take it!"
We had an amusing fight over who would get the scooter until I won by finally walking away, with my mom trailing behind. The man even chased me for a bit before giving up and getting on the scooter. I could tell he felt like a heel for questioning me like he did and then, I was so giving about the situation to top it off.
So, for him, before we talked...seeing was believing. He assumed, when he saw young and healthy looking mothers on scooters with their children, that they were doing it to keep their children entertained. He held that prejudice until he finally confronted someone about it and was told differently...that there are sometime disabilities that aren't readily seen and that there are people who truly need the devices who might not appear to at first glance.
Hopefully that was an eye opener for him and he now looks at people who are invisibly disabled differently. I know I do! I mean, before I was sick, I would sometimes look at certain people on scooters with a secret, uncontrollable disgust! They were fat and lazy and just didn't want to walk or they were young and wanting to ride one for fun. Now, I never look at people like that EVER! I assume the opposite...that they must have something and how unfortunate for them to have to use a scooter.
That is one thing I think we all share...this appreciation for the new world view we received. I mean, if I hadn't gotten this illness, even though I am a naturally empathetic person, I would have never realized the prejudices I carried that had been subconsciously taught by society as a whole. Instead, I see reality! It is sad that it takes someone getting ill or being confronted with the truth, like the man with his knees, before they open their eyes.
An amusing situation
Blog entry posted by mirespada, Sep 12, 2018.
About the Author
I am a 29 year old mother of two beautiful girls. I have had ME/CFS for 8 years. Before I got sick, I was an archaeologist for the Forest Service (the youngest professional archaeologist in the Southwest!). I now live with my very supportive family: my mom, my dad, my sister, her boyfriend, my S.O., my two girls, my two dogs, my cat, and 4 fish.