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Thumbnail for A British teen just shared a powerful reminder that not all illnesses are visible
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Photo: Stocksy/Milles Studio

When a seemingly healthy teen parks in a space reserved for handicap use only, it might raise some alarms. Because if you can’t see any physical disabilities, there can’t possible be any, right? Well, no—actually not at all. And this very misconception is something one woman deals with on the daily. Now she wants the world to know that just because you can’t spot her illness with your eyes doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

According to Indy100, Yasmin Swift, a 19-year-old who lives in England, was recently diagnosed with a rare lung disorder called idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension. It can cause everything from heart palpitations and shortness of breath to dizziness and fainting. Because walking long distances can be troublesome for her body given the decreased lung capacity, Swift has a disabled parking badge. Even though she’s gotten some judgmental looks from passersby when using it, she was never confronted outright—until recently, she shared via Facebook.

To the person in Tenterden who wrote this lovely message on my car last night.. Just because I look well doesn’t mean I…

Posted by Yasmin Swift on Friday, July 20, 2018

Swift returned to her car only to find an angry note from another driver on her windshield that read: “You are parked illegally. You are not disabled. I will inform authorities accordingly.”

Well, just because someone looks totally able-bodied doesn’t mean they’re healthy—and Swift wants to spread that message. “You can tell people are staring when you get out of the car, but nobody had actually said anything before, let alone left a note,” Swift said in an interview. “When I put my badge up, I feel like I have to walk out of the car limping. But I shouldn’t have to feel like that, because there is an illness—it just doesn’t show.”

Self-love guru Nitika Chopra both agrees and sympathizes from personal experience. “I was just 19 years old when I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and know this frustration all too well. I remember moving to NYC shortly after and how much of a struggle it was to walk down the stairs to the subway only to get into a packed train with no seats available,” she says. “I held back countless tears from both the physical discomfort and the palpable feeling that no one understood what I was going through and this still comes up for me as I deal with the ups and downs of living with a chronic illness that is often invisible.”

So sure, someone might appear to be perfectly healthy, but as with so many things in life, there’s often more than meets the eye. Hopefully as the awareness grows regarding the physicality (or lack thereof) of debilitating conditions, no one make will Swift’s day harder—or anyone else’s, for that matter—again due to thoughtless judgment.

Here’s how to make self-care a priority when you’re dealing with a chronic illness. Or, find out how to help a friend who’s living with a chronic illness.

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