As I dialed the number for the Counseling and Testing Center at FMU, my heart was racing. Not because I was nervous about what they would say to me, but the fact that taking that step was at the same time admitting that I have a disability, that I have something wrong with me.
See, I have a medical disability that affects my overall health and well being. I won’t bore you with the details, but after multiple semesters of trying to push past it and blend in, I realized I couldn’t keep it up. It took my grades suffering and my relationships falling apart for me to realize I didn’t have everything under control and that I needed to ask for help. As if being diagnosed with a disease or life-long illness isn’t difficult enough to accept, admitting that you’re outside of the social ideology of normal and that you need special help is even harder.
You see, our society has coupled the ideas of a disability with the stigmas of laziness and the person in question being beneath others for so long. I started to doubt whether I was lazy or abusing the system as I signed the papers to accept the help that I needed. On top of that, I couldn’t help but wonder if all of my teachers would treat me the same after I told them about my condition. I knew that people who “looked” sick were normally treated well. But living with an invisible illness made me question if they would believe me. I had heard so many people critique my invisible illness.
I had heard the murmurs about me not looking sick, that I was merely seeking more attention, that it was all in my head. Would the professors I had never met before think the same thing? I wondered if they would believe me and for the most part treat me the same as everyone else. After all, that’s all anyone suffering from a disability wants- to have people who believe that we are sick and that, while we can’t do everything like a normal person can, we’re still people, and deserve to be treated as such.
As I prepared to tell my teachers about my illness and my requests I prayed that they would be understanding of my condition. Luckily they all were, and my words were received with warmth and understanding.
It’s not always like that. People aren’t always quick to believe you and show compassion for an illness they may or may not understand. And for those times when they don’t, it can be traumatic for those who are ill. To open up about a disease that’s wreaked havoc on your life and ask for help, only to be laughed at and turned away is something that no one should have to experience.
So for every person who reads this who’s had the courage to admit that you need help and taken that step, I commend you. Taking that step is not only incredibly difficult, but incredibly brave. For anyone who needs help and is afraid to ask, I can’t promise that it will be easy, I wish I could, but I can promise you that once you get past the negative connotations and critics it will be worth it.