Coming to terms with my hidden disabilities

The views expressed in the following article are the opinion of the writer and do not reflect the opinions of the Newswire staff as a whole.

I have a diagnosable disability. During my time in high school and throughout college I have been offered benefits created for students, like me, with a diagnosable disability. And for approximately the past seven years, I have refused said benefits created for students, like me, with a diagnosable disability. Yet I still have a diagnosable disability.

I was first diagnosed with my disability when I was 15 years old, as a sophomore in high school. Prior to my diagnosis, I suffered every day for months from head-splitting migraines that never went away and never got better, only worse.

When I was diagnosed with chronic migraines, I thought it was a joke. I, the person living through pain that rendered me immovable some days, wrote off my disability as a farce because no one knew I was suffering unless I explained why. I grew up going to school with peers who were in wheelchairs, deaf, blind or had a learning disability. I didn’t think that just because my head hurt I could benefit from the same system they benefited from. I felt like I was stealing from them.

I missed much of my junior and senior years of high school. I attended roughly 66 percent of those last two years combined. It’s a miracle I was able to graduate; I was out of school almost as much as I was in it. Even then, I still refused to utilize the benefits of my diagnosed disability.

I went through several years of my life when it was physically painful for anything to touch me — other people, my dog, showering and even simply wearing clothes all triggered the pain. Anything that touched my skin made me feel like I was on fire. I went roughly three years without having human contact that didn’t send my body through a painful experience. My family stopped hugging me, I had almost completely isolated myself from everyone in my life because I was in so much pain and I did not know what to do about it. Because at the end of the day, I was still “normal,” and there were real people out there struggling more than me.

A lot of the struggles I have had with coming to terms with my disability is the way our society treats people with disabilities. I was raised thinking that a disability has to be visual.

By definition, I have a disability. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities…a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

Isolating oneself from all forms of contact seems to “substantially limit one or more major life activity.” Missing more than 30 percent of two years of school seems to “substantially limit one or more major life activity.” Yet I still didn’t consider myself to be a person with a disability.

It’s only recently that I have accepted the fact that I have a disability. I am a fiercely independent person who struggles excessively with asking for help. For years I denied the services I was legally entitled to make my educational journey easier. I simply thought that because I looked “normal,” behaved “normally” and communicated “normally” that I was abusing the system.

I am a sufferer of chronic migraines and nerve pain. I am also a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder and manic-depressive disorder.

These are the disabilities that trouble me and make my day-to-day life more difficult. The only thing is, no one sees them. No one knows when I’m suffering from an intense migraine. No one knows when I’m about to experience a flashback. No one knows when my mood will shift or what will trigger the shift. No one can see my physical or mental disabilities. But just because no one can see them doesn’t make them any less real than they are.

For seven years I have either denied help and resources to make my life easier or have felt extremely guilty for accepting those resources. It’s only now I am letting that part of my past go.

Abrena Rowe is a senior psychology major from Cincinnati. She is the Newswire’s former Opinions & Editorials Editor.