What It's Like To Travel With An Invisible Illness

What It's Like To Travel With An Invisible Illness

I don't look disabled, and I doubt anyone would believe I am. But I shouldn't have to make myself look a certain way to make people see my disability and have my accommodations validated
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I began traveling out of state for brief summer trips when I was seventeen. I had only been on a plane once in my entire life up to that point, and I didn’t really remember how it went. I was four years old during my first flight, and when I was seventeen a lot had changed. I had terrible anxiety, I had sensory issues and an abundance of health issues that would later make traveling much harder. Just a year later before my second trip, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It was a hard pill to swallow. I had to, at age 18, succumb to the need for a wheelchair as I traipsed around airport terminals and after spending hours in a cramped airplane seat, I would have to use it again to get from the plane to the baggage claim. I eventually got used to it--I never noticed people staring at me with judgement in their eyes, and when I was visiting people they didn’t care. They knew, with a basic understanding, exactly what I was dealing with. There was no shame in it, because I needed it.

However, I just flew from Austin, TX to New Bern, NC for a two-week vacation to visit family, and to have some nice quality “quiet” time. I had never flown out of Austin’s airport, but it was easy enough. I had a connecting flight in Atlanta, and that’s when things began to go downhill. I had a two-hour layover. I was picked up in what could only be described as the worst possible wheelchair known to mankind, and was asked only if I needed to stop at the restroom. When I replied “No,” my attendant took me directly to my terminal. Thanks to the brain-fog I was experiencing, I saw that the terminal was preparing for a flight to Arkansas. Frustrated, confused and drenched in anxiety, I grabbed my heavy carry-on duffle and began to look for a nearby attendant. I was exhausted, and I needed food--but I also needed to make sure I was in the right place. When it was confirmed I had just misunderstood the scheduling, I went about my way to find food. That nearly had me dropping to the floor.

For one, it was crowded in the terminal. Secondly, I couldn’t find anything I had been wanting. I wanted either a smoothie, or some iced coffee and something with heavy protein. This was a hard to find item apparently, and my layover was dwindling away the more I spent time dragging myself and my carry-on across an unfamiliar airport.

After finding a smoothie and a place to sit (twice) and resting (twice) I got up and attempted to head back to my terminal. It was far too late when I realized I had gone the opposite way. Confused, overwhelmed and anxious as a chihuahua, I sat down in the nearest handicapped seat at a nearby terminal and begged the desk attendant to call wheelchair assistance for me. I could barely speak. Heck, I could barely think to speak. I was dripping in sweat, I was trembling from the pain and the fatigue and my mind had become scrambled eggs. But what got me was that she looked at me as if I was crazy. I saw her judging me, criticizing me, and just being plain annoyed by my presence.

I had to wait for wheelchair assistance since people who had stayed in their designated wheelchair or who had yet to receive the one they requested came first. I understood this--but it did nothing to quell the shame and guilt I felt. As I watched the same woman happily interact with seemingly able-bodied customers, I was sitting next to her, struggling to breathe and avoid passing out. I was holding back tears and the intense need to just fall apart. When the wheelchair did come for me, I couldn’t bear the shame I felt. I hid my face in the duffle bag I carried in my lap as the attendant wheeled me back to my assigned terminal. My tears flowed down my face despite the fact I tried so hard to avoid it. I took off my glasses and continued to hide my face as I sobbed into my duffle bag.


When I arrived at my terminal I called my mom to explain to her what had happened and how horrible and disgusted I felt. My flight was beginning to board and I truly felt invisible. I was sitting in a wheelchair, waiting to be wheeled towards the plane since I had priority boarding. My anxiety began to set in--my name was flashing on the screen and yet I was sitting in plain sight, still unnoticed by the person allowing other passengers to board. Never, in my entire life, had I felt more of a burden, waste of space, or piece of garbage than I did in that airport.

The thing is, I look young and pretty--and for the most part, I am. I am 23-years-old, I have a nicely applied makeup and maintained hair, I’m dressed nicely--even with the moccasins that are considered house slippers as my choice of footwear--no one is going to look at me and believe I truly needed that wheelchair, nor would they be able to imagine the pain I was feeling--the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain. Being so young and living with an invisible illness is a battle in of itself. I am constantly fighting to be seen. Because I am not always obviously sick or near-death in my appearance. But, you know what? That shouldn’t matter. I shouldn’t have to cater my appearance to an able-bodied persons idea of what a disabled person should look like.

Because, I am disabled, and I look young, with well-maintained hair and decent makeup. I wear nice clothes, and yes, I do need that wheelchair.

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.

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There are, currently, 23 Democrats running for President. On the Republican side, there's, of course, Trump, but only one other candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Democrats have a whole range of people running, from senators to congressmen, a former vice-president, and even a spiritual advisor. We can now say that there are DOZENS of people running for President in 2020.

Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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