32 Cases Of Ableism People Have Actually Experienced That Will Make You Wanna Scream
A roommate, watching me swallow a handful of pain meds: “I just really don’t like taking any medicine personally.”
The number of times I've heard "The virus only really kills the vulnerable, anyway" since the start of this pandemic, as if we're somehow less than and don't matter? Even from people I thought were friends? We hear you and how ready you are to sacrifice us for your normalcy. And it hurts.
Before I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (a chronic, painful arthritic condition of the spine), if I called to make an appointment to discuss back pain, I would constantly get told that their office was not authorized to prescribe narcotics (even though if they looked at my chart, they’d see I had never taken or asked to be prescribed any pain pills from any doctor). I was constantly made to feel as though I was doing something wrong, even though I just wanted answers for my pain.
A roommate, watching me swallow a handful of pain meds: “I just really don’t like taking any medicine personally.”
Before I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, I told my doctor that I was falling asleep at my desk at work and WHILE DRIVING, and she told me I just need to drink more caffeine. A sleep study two years later showed that caffeine was not going to fix me!
I have an invisible disability. During the pandemic, I’ve had several delivery food services refuse to bring my food to my apartment door. I’m not asking them to be in contact with me. I just can’t move around enough to go down to the lobby all the time. And I will never forget the one driver from Uber Eats who said, “I delivered to you last week and you’re not disabled. You’re lying.” I explained that I was disabled but he insisted that I didn’t look disabled. I was literally shaking. And Uber doesn’t have customer service, so I couldn’t even complain.
I have severe Crohn’s Disease and the most frustrating one for me is unsolicited advice. “My uncle’s sister’s dog’s best friend’s cousin’s wife tried [Insert absurd home remedy here] and they said they were completely cured!” Great! Maybe I could’ve saved myself three emergency operations, two temporary stomas, and countless intense drug treatments if I’d just followed your ridiculous advice! People choose to believe that when you have something like this, you must not be doing everything you can, because they just can’t handle the fact that sometimes bodies just fuck up on their own and that it could very well happen to them.
I have epilepsy and it was getting worse and I was having some pretty awful neuro side effects, so I went to see my neurologist and after explaining what was going on, he looked me up and down and said, "Someone who says she’s as sick as you would not be wearing makeup."
I have multiple chronic conditions, many of which cause me to be in excruciating daily pain. I have trouble standing, I'm in so much pain I can't eat; you know, things like that. The one thing I can't stand to hear: "At least it's not cancer." Why do people (including doctors!) think that is an okay thing to say to me?? Stop invalidating what I'm feeling and going through!
I have a seizure disorder, and have had an incredible struggle trying to find the right medication to manage my seizures, deal with the awfulness of medication changes (large doses of anti-seizure meds can have a huge impact on how you function), and trying to figure out and manage my seizure triggers. But if you met me on my good days, you would think absolutely nothing is wrong with me. And I’ve had people straight up not believe me when I’ve had to ask for help. An old boss of mine questioned a co-worker who had helped me during a seizure at work, and told him not to do it again because I was a liability to the company.
I was misdiagnosed for 10+ years and when a doctor found out that I have OCD, her demeanor completely changed. Her view of me shifted, and she started asking me all of these questions about my OCD symptoms instead of my physical, PAINFUL symptoms. She then had the audacity to ask if “It was just in my head.” As it turns out, the medications I was taking were giving me worsening symptoms and I was less than a year away from needing my esophagus removed.
I’ll never forget that day because once she said it, I thought it. By the time I found a doctor that worked to find the source of my pain I had almost given up, and was starting to believe that the crippling symptoms I was living with were indeed in my head. I now need periodic surgeries to continue to have the ability to eat, and sometimes I still think back on when I thought it was my fault because of my OCD.
There was one time I told my manager I was depressed that day. She turns around and says "You're young. What do you have to be depressed about?"
I have OCD, which sometimes makes me do weird things. Typically, they're things that are small but noticeable. For example, I get really anxious about walking under scaffolding and like to avoid it whenever possible.
On multiple occasions, I've had to do a compulsion around other people, and someone will notice it and bring it up. I'll say something like, "Yeah, I have a thing about [x], it's my OCD." And then the other person will try to logic me out of a behavior that 1) I've already done, 2) may have been a little weird, but didn't really affect anyone, and 3) is, by definition, illogical. It makes me really uncomfortable because it's not like I *like* doing this stuff — it's that my brain can't quiet down until I do the thing. And then you're trying to make me think about the thing after I've done it? Ugh.
I have chronic pain from a back injury that happened about four years ago. Most days I function through it because I'm used to it but it's still constant. I'm currently 28 and I constantly have people telling me to "just wait until I'm older" or that my pain can't be that bad because I'm young. I honestly wish pain had an age limit like so many people seem to think.
I have MS (specifically RRMS) and if I do too much my vision gets blurry and it’s hard to think of the words I need to say until I rest for like, 30 minutes. I am a nurse, so that sucked. I had one old manager say “If you don’t want to do your job just get another one. We can’t be picking up your slack.” I had only been diagnosed two months prior and was learning how to function properly. Fun stuff.
I was told that I use my illness as a crutch by my sister. This was right after I had just had my second major surgery in 8 months, 4th surgery in five years. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that hurt.
If I force myself to maintain control despite pain, I'm told; "You can't be in that much pain if you're not even crying."
I have migraines and TMD. People say things like “I’ve had headaches too.” Or, “Wow your pain sure comes at convenient times.” And once a doctor said, “It’s because you are obese.” I was 19 and weighed 190...
In 6th grade, a boy reported me to the principal of our school for having drugs in my locker. School administration then tore my locker apart, and did in fact find needles...because I am a type one diabetic and have to take insulin every day just to stay alive. I almost got expelled because this kid and the not-much-more-intelligent adults around him forgot that most people who use needles, especially 12-year-olds, have a disease like diabetes and not a heroin problem. 🤦🏻♀️ The same thing happened later that year, but with me having snacks in my locker (also forbidden). School administrators removed them and didn’t tell me, so when I went to my locker a few days later with a blood sugar of 45 looking for my apple juice and crackers, they were gone and I ended up on the floor, unable to identify where I was or what was going on. Ableism can be really annoying, but it can also be dangerous. (Don’t take away people’s food!!)
Oh man...I have so many. But the one that stands out is when my manager asked me for a doctor's note in order to use the bathroom. The BATHROOM!
I have a lot of mysterious illnesses as well as EDS — a hyper mobility and connective tissue disorder. I was on the volleyball team my freshman year of high school and my coach told me that “I shouldn’t be there if I can’t do everything all the other girls can do” even though some exercises had brought my knee issues back and I had a note from a physical therapist. I’ve also been told by doctors that my symptoms “aren’t a thing” or that “it’s probably anxiety related.” Like I know the difference, thank you???
The unbelievable amounts of stigma, ridicule, and shame you’re subjected to for taking pain medication on a daily basis just to get to the level of “normal” that most people are privileged enough to take for granted. The opioid crisis has done so much undue harm and suffering to the pain management community and I feel like this is never addressed or discussed by anyone. It is 100% possible to take pain medication and not fall victim to addiction. I know it is a serious problem for a lot of people; but that does not mean it is a problem for everyone. Would you shame a diabetic for needing insulin? It’s essentially the same thing for people suffering from debilitating chronic pain. And what I don’t think people understand is that we use the medication in addition to all the other things you’re suggesting will “cure” us (yoga, diet, exercise, meditation, CBD, balms/salves, TENS units, ice/heat, etc.)
A pretty regular one I hear is "You're too young to be sick/need a walking stick/need a wheelchair/need a carer, etc."
I have severe rheumatoid arthritis and hEDS. My old supervisor was never supportive when I had to miss work due to pain or the effects of my infusions (nausea, dizziness, fatigue). One day I overheard two of my coworkers discussing how I "should just go on disability ". When I complained to my supervisor (because I have a right to work and only missed like 2 days a month) she just said, "Well, I can't help how they feel. You let us down a lot." I eventually left that job.
I have Crohn's Disease. I have been told numerous times that I need to stop taking my medication and "simply switch to organic food" because they think that will heal me. For clarification, if I stop taking my medication, I won't be able to digest anything I eat and will rapidly become malnourished.
“You just need to trust in God more.” — my youth pastor when I told her about my recent (at the time) depression diagnoses. 9+ years ago and it still gets me heated when I think about it.
I suffer from agonizingly severe constipation and impaction from birth defects. My mom will say things like, "just drink a glass of cold water!" Growing up, she was there for all my reconstructive surgeries. It kills me because she's one of the only people I can talk to about it.
I have fibromyalgia, which causes chronic fatigue and chronic pain, and costochondritis, which feels like you're being stabbed by a thousand knives every time you breathe. If I cancel plans due to being in pain/too exhausted I hear, "It's just anxiety. You'll feel better if we meet up. You need to get out of the house."
Before I was diagnosed (took more than 10 years) I got the whole “You need to exercise and lose weight.” Turns out that I have Progressive Multiple Sclerosis and exercising and losing weight led me straight into an 8 day hospital stay!
I have an undiagnosed progressive neurological disorder. I’m 23 and have been sick for five years now with no diagnosis. Because of not having a diagnosis I have gotten a fair amount of ableism from family to medical professionals. One of the worst to me is "How can it be a 10? You’re able to speak so that’s a bit of an overreaction”. When in reality I just am used to being at a pain level of 10 (but that doesn’t make it any less painful).
"Can I borrow your handicapped placard so I can park closer?" No. It's not... you get that it's not a 'perk,' right? I've never thought to myself, gosh, it's so lucky I'm disabled so I can get a good parking spot! It takes so much energy just to accomplish a task and that helps.
When people try and "reassure" me that they can't tell that there's anything wrong with me and it's just "worse" to me because I live with it from day to day.
I had someone tell me that if just stopped taking my medicines (7 pills in the evening, 15 at night, every 6 weeks I go for an infusion of a mild form of chemotherapy), and if I just trusted in God then I won’t need to take all the pills cause God will heal me.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.