The Trouble with Looking “Fine”
Don’t let the title fool you. I am not referring to a vain personal view of oneself. I am talking about those of us who have disabilities that aren’t readily visible. We don’t have wheelchairs, or orthopedic devices. We don’t have visible scars of our mental and/or physical traumas. Our disabilities are invisible and all too often, because of that, so are we. We’ve all heard it… “but you look fine”.
Unlike someone who uses a wheelchair, those of us with invisible disabilities are forced to navigate a world that can’t see our handicaps and therefore can’t accept our shortfalls. Too often we have heard “but you look fine”. While this may sound like a harmless observation, it also negates everything we have to endure. Just because you cannot see our disability does not mean that it doesn’t exist. Our lives do not operate based exclusively on what you perceive. It may be intended as a harmless comment or even a compliment, but its effects can be devastating.
The statistics are staggering. Everyday 18 veterans commit suicide. EIGHTEEN! Among active duty and reserve military personnel there is a suicide every 36 hours. These numbers, even when not combined, overshadow the death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Between the physical scars and the mental torment, far too many of our brothers and sisters are finding their burdens too much to bear. Couple this with the prevalent environment within our ranks and you have a perfect storm. We are trained to be tougher and stronger. We are taught to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We are told that pain is weakness, and in seeking help for that pain we are somehow less than our fellows. This has to change.
It is time for us to come together as a cohesive unit. Our objective is to ensure that none of us has to feel like we are dealing with this alone. We need to find our battle buddies…our squads… our platoons. We need to know there is someone we can call when we are feeling desperate. We need to form the kind of camaraderie that truly never leaves a fellow brother or sister behind. It doesn’t matter the situation that caused the injuries or PTSD…what matters is we be there for each other as we navigate this new terrain. We need to dismiss the stereotypes. We need to share the tools we have learned to cope with our disabilities. We need to share the resources that can aid in recovery. We need to stand together in the face of our common enemy. That is our mission…will you accept it?