No one is too young to suffer from an invisible disability, and Countless young people have written to me, saying that thiis is one of the most frustrating and hurtful comments they have to listen to.
No matter what their diagnosis, they're continually told that they can’t possibly be in chronic pain at their age.
A young woman with multiple sclerosis told me that someone spit on her when she didn’t give up her seat to an older person on the subway.
I feel frustrated and sad when young people tell me that they’ve been challenged by others in this way.
This ignorance about young people with chronic illness has other consequences.
Several young people have told me that they’ve been openly challenged when they park in a disabled spot, even though they have the required placard or sticker.
We need to raise awareness about the fact that chronic pain and chronic illness can strike anyone at any age.
From years of writing about chronic pain and illness, I’ve learned that young people carry several extra burdens, especially when their disability is invisible (as is more often the case than not).
This piece focuses on young people, although some of its points apply to people of any age, depending on their circumstances. Young people are treated as if their health issues can’t possibly be chronic.
Imagine how hard it must be to respond skillfully to a comment like that.
A 2013 study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (NAC/IOM) showed, not just that Americans are getting sicker, but that young Americans are getting sicker.
When young people are treated as if their condition can’t possibly be chronic, not only do they feel disregarded, but they may begin to question their own perceptions and judgment: “Is my body really this sick and in pain?
Everyone says it can’t possibly be the case, so maybe it’s all in my head.” This questioning can lead to self-recrimination and can seriously erode a young person’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth.