Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash

From Invisible to Visible Disability: the Journey Begins

Georgia NeSmith
5 min readJun 2, 2019

In many ways, becoming visibly disabled after decades of appearing “normal” has been liberating. It also has its costs.

Tuesday May 23, 2019, I finally joined the ranks of the visibly disabled.

For three decades since I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia [while several other conditions remained undiagnosed at the time], I’ve been invisibly disabled. Multiple chronic pain/fatigue conditions along with post traumatic stress disorder and generalized anxiety disorder have challenged me for the majority of my 70 years. Indeed, despite my disabilities being invisible until now, they have essentially defined my life. Even when I didn’t know there was a name for them.

I’ve been mobility impaired for about 10 years, but until now I had no visible mobility aids, no one knew how much I couldn’t physically do. In contrast to people with visible disabilities who have to deal with people underestimating their abilities, I deal with people judging me because I don’t do what “normal” people do. Like make connections with people by participating in volunteer events because I “don’t have enough spoons.” See:

As a consequence, I’ve dealt with my chronic pain/fatigue issues by either 1] hiding in my apartment for weeks at a time, or 2] engaging in rigorous exercise [e.g., bike riding]. The exercise actually helps reduce the pain. It uses different muscles and the rigor gets the endorphins popping and oxygen flowing.

Because of all the biking they’ve seen me do, my septuagenarian and older senior building mates have assumed I’m healthy as an ox. [Whatever that means. I’ve never met an ox, so I have no idea what a healthy ox looks like. Or an unhealthy one, either!]

Photo by Emma D. on Unsplash

For years I’ve not been able to take walks or even walk just to get around much because of pain in my hips and back that can

Georgia NeSmith

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.