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What it feels like to have an ‘invisible’ disability

Living with an ‘invisible’ disability is not easy, especially when it comes to using disabled facilities writes Simon Robb in Metro.

I was diagnosed with a bowel disease when I was 18 and had just enrolled at university.

When I heard the words ulcerative colitis for the first time, what I actually heard was, ‘wave bye bye to your social life’.

At its very worst, I would need the toilet at least 17 times a day. I had also dropped two stone, couldn’t absorb nutrients and found it hard to concentrate in lectures.

On the surface I looked relatively healthy, but people who knew me could see I was finding day-to-day life a struggle.

No matter where I went, I would have to plan ahead and make sure there was a toilet within reach.

Despite a number of recent campaigns on social media, bowel diseases like Crohn’s and IBS are still considered a taboo subject.

But recently Asda issued a new disabled sign depicting the familiar person in a wheelchair emblem, but now including a standard man and woman symbol.

The sign reads: ‘Not every disability is visible’.

Looking back, one of the hardest parts to deal with was people’s reactions to me using the disabled facilities – but I had little choice.

I’ve had mother’s with small children tut at me, a member of staff at a supermarket asking me why I needed access to the disabled loo, and an embarrassing confrontation with an elderly man at a coffee shop.

In front of all the customers, he said: ‘Toilets like these are designed for people like me.’

Back then I didn’t have the courage to stand up for myself and asked my friend if we could make a swift exit.

This is why disabled toilet signs, like the one in Asda, is imperative for people who look physically-abled, but beneath the surface suffer with health complications.

I’m now in remission and haven’t needed to use a disabled toilet for several years – but there are people still out there who are faced with the same discrimination I was.

Please don’t judge.

 

 

 

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