What does "sick/ill" look like? What does "disabled" look like?
Out of curiosity, we asked our Instagram friends what they expect to see when they hear someone looks "sick/ill." Here are some of the responses:
-"like you couldn't get dressed"
-"pasty & feverish"
-"still in bed"
-"idk everyone looks different. it looks like nothing?"
That last answer was spot on. Disabilities and illnesses can take many forms and they're not always visible when you look at someone. One of the most common comments I hear is "but you don't look sick to me." It's such a hurtful and frustrating response. You never know how someone is feeling, and many of us who feel awful on a daily basis have gotten very good at acting like we're feeling ok when we're really not.
This seems to have become an even bigger challenge in the pandemic. Not looking "dressed for the day" has become normalized and people are equating it with feeling fine but looking messy. Meanwhile, people are using "you don't look sick" about covid-19 infections. It's a little nuts. It almost seems like we're going backwards - instead of the pandemic encouraging more empathy, it's reducing it.
We hope you'll remember that someone may look "normal" to you, but might be struggling with something you can't see. Similarly, just because someone tells you (or you see) a disability, we hope you won't make a bunch of assumptions about what they're capable of doing. I think humans are programmed to make assumptions about things, it's how we navigate the world. BUT if you're mindful about it, you can teach yourself to rethink those assumptions. Ask yourself why you made that assumption about someone's abilities or why you're quick to think they're lying about their illnesses. At the very least, please stop assuming you can see illnesses when you look at someone.
Remember, especially when in doubt, BE KIND.