4 Common Chronic Illness Myths Debunked

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There are so many misconceptions about those who are chronically ill or disabled out there. Here are 4 common myths about those who have disabilities, and why they are not true.

Chronic Illness Myths

Myth #1: All Disabilities Are Visible

If you were to sit me on a chair and look at me, I wouldn’t look disabled or chronically ill. Does that mean I am not? Heck no, quite the opposite! 

The old view of disability was that you had to be visibly broken, be it with a walking stick, wheelchair, a limp or disfiguration of some sort, etc. This is a serious, prehistoric, awful viewpoint, and while I am sure this issue is becoming less prevalent, some people STILL have this level of ignorance, and it gives me so much anger. 

I am the first to admit when I was a young kid and needed to use a disabled toilet for example, I would see a person walk in, outwardly looking “normal,” I would then question to myself why are they using the disabled toilet? Luckily with age comes growth and wisdom because nowadays I would never question any person using a disabled facility, as you don’t know what they are needing it for. And frankly it’s none of anyone’s business! 

Examples of invisible illness or conditions are autism, people who require stoma bags, and people with conditions such as Fibromyalgia or FND! All of these conditions you may not see or notice, but I can assure you they are indeed there and can make life extremely difficult, therefore the requirement for a disabled toilet is very much needed so please don’t be that asshole and judge them for it. We are all fighting battles no one can see, be it mentally or physically. 

Don’t get me wrong though, I am not naive because I know people do take the utter piss and use the disabled facilities when they are genuinely not disabled and could access the other facilities. This royally makes me upset, but what can ye do? As much as I would love to run over their toes with my wheelchair… I won’t be that guy.

Myth #2: Disabled People Get Easy Access To Government Money

WELL, this is a doozy because it’s laughable and let me tell you why. 

Firstly, If you are unfortunate enough to not be well enough to sustain employment such as myself, you are forced to claim benefits. This is absolutely nothing short of a living nightmare let me tell you, and more importantly NOTHING to be ashamed of either.

You are applying to a system that is designed to make you fail, and basically make you feel like you are lying about your reason for applying in the first place, so that’s the first thing. The hoops you have to jump through to claim the basic benefits you are entitled to are horrendous and really disheartening. But you do it because if you don’t you will have zero income and zero means to live.

The viewpoint of “Disabled/chronically ill people who claim benefits are just lazy and getting lots of money for doing nothing and are probably faking,” is something that makes my stomach churn. The actual process is somewhat traumatic for some and the actual amount of money you receive, if you are lucky enough to even be successful, is still very little considering how expensive being disabled can be!

Disabled people do not get “handed” money or get stuff for free that’s for sure. All of my mobility aids, such as wheeled rollators, my first manual wheelchair, and my £1200 electric wheelchair, amongst other things were all funded by ME. I received no help whatsoever to cover any cost of living aids or wheelchairs etc.

There is nothing more frustrating than being viewed as a benefit scrounger. We have all had to complete a very rigorous, demeaning and thorough process to be deemed eligible for these benefits, none of it came easy.

I don’t know if anyone can relate, but not being able to make my own money and being at the mercy of the DWP is something I would never wish on anyone. The fear of it all being taken away overnight is very real, giving a feeling of complete lack of control and MAJOR ANXIETY compared to being able to work and be in secure employment.

Disabled people are one of the most financially vulnerable groups in society and it’s shocking as the system nowadays is making it even more difficult to pass assessments even for the most genuine severely disabled people. Don’t even get me started on the recent living crisis, the fear is REAL.

Overall, being disabled and chronically unwell are super expensive. The monthly benefits provided barely scratch the surface of realistic living costs amongst the extra expensive life requirements people need to get by day to day with their health issues. I really hope one day this all changes because it really is nonsense that people think we are all having a ball with our tons of free money… haha! We wish, right?

Myth #3: Disabled People Can’t Be Reliable Employees

This is quite an important one to address because disability discrimination is still super widespread within workplaces. I have had first hand experiences of just that.

There is a thought amongst most people that disabled or chronically unwell people can’t gain employment, never mind actually be a fantastic asset to a company. Although I cannot work myself, I have previously had jobs where I was actually told I had to “prove” myself to them so they could be assured they didn’t make a big mistake employing me because of my health issues. Disgusting right? Talk about building your confidence when you have literally just started the job and been told that.

The biggest myth is if you employ a person with a disability or health issue, they will never show up for work and will require more sick days than a healthy able bodied employee. This is absolutely ableist in my opinion. In reality, if employers actually treated disabled people like actual human beings and supported their needs in the workplace, we would feel valued and safe in our jobs. We would have the required measures in place to help us do our jobs to the best of our ability.

It’s really not rocket science but for some reason 99% of workplaces still look at a disabled employee or interviewee as a liability that will cost them time and money. They will most likely employ someone who may even have less credentials but does not pose a risk of multiple sick days, even though there is nothing to say that they may need multiple sick days too because we are all humans and not robots.

I read somewhere that statistically disabled people are nearly 40% less likely to take sick days than anyone else, and are more keen to stay in their job long term for the security so actually this is a massive plus point for employers. I hope in time this viewpoint will change and disabled people can gain secure, supported employment more easily because we all have amazing skill sets to share with the world.

We should be able to do that without fear of discrimination. Plus, how amazing would it be to actually earn our own money and feel financial security for once right?? It’s nice to dream though.

Myth #4: You Can’t Be Ill Or Disabled If You’re Looking Well Or Enjoying Life

THIS literally boils my blood and I just can’t deal with the sheer level of ignorance surrounding this point of view.

So, I can have a full face of makeup on, hair straightened and dress in nice clothes, whilst in my wheelchair. I can be seen laughing and having fun with my husband out at a cafe or whatever which apparently means I am not in any pain whatsoever or feeling unwell. It means I am not anxious, my disability pain levels and sheer fatigue MUST be a lie because I’m out living my life and look well right? WRONG.

Chronically ill and disabled people get villainized in the media for just living their lives the best they can within their ability and that NEEDS to stop. 

You see it everywhere, “Disability claimant spotted by pool in Majorca”…..AND?? Apparently we don’t deserve happiness, holidays to make memories with our loved ones, or anything of the sort.

Apparently unless we are hermits who never leave the house, look like utter dog crap and moan about our struggles every single day, we are not disabled or unwell. we can’t POSSIBLY be having a good time or enjoying our lives whilst having all these issues. 

This needs to change so much as it is so incredibly damaging to people in this community. It can spread hate and make people feel they aren’t worthy of looking good, socializing or having fun of any kind because of what people may think.

I for one couldnt give a crap about what people think when I’m out and about with my husband because lets be real for a minute, life is hard enough. No one understands the struggles we face day in and day out. I will never deprive myself of the small joys I can have just because it doesnt fit the narrative people think I should be living.

Don’t ever let this stop you living your best life. You are the expert in your own life, no one else is, so you do YOU.

If one day I look bad and the next I look like Angelina Jolie so what? Does it mean I’m all of a sudden cured? No, I wish!

These are just 4 tiny examples of the stuff disabled/chronically ill people face, and I hope this post somehow helps you realize you are not alone in dealing with this.

If you have got this far down the post, thanks again for being here. It makes this all worthwhile, even if it helps just one person feel less alone or even makes them laugh I will consider my job done.

This article was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Oliver of Dumbarton, Scotland UK. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Join the Love What Matters family and subscribe to our newsletter.

Read more from Jessica:

‘The problem was there 2 years prior and no one believed me.’: Disabled chronic illness warrior shares long journey to diagnosis

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‘I left in tears, feeling more defeated than ever.’: Chronic illness warrior fighting for answers opens up about ‘medical gaslighting’

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