Here’s Why Invisibility Isn’t Always a Super Power 

My son and I playing handball. Disabilities don’t all look the same.

Close your eyes for a moment and picture a disabled person.  Keep that image in mind.  

What does she look like?  

How does she behave?  

What can she do?  

What can’t she do?  

What does she need help with?


Now, tell me if these descriptions match the picture in your imagination:

A woman and her son ride their bikes in their neighborhood.

A woman spends 30 minutes in her garden, weeding, pruning her bougainvillea vine, re-arranging large pots, and then sweeping up the mess she made on the sidewalk.

A woman goes for a leisurely walk in her neighborhood, bending over to smell a light pink rose, stopping to admire a butterfly that is perched on a leaf.

A woman sees her ninety-year-old neighbor arrive home in an Uber.  Her neighbor struggles to hang the grocery bags from her walker.  The woman goes across the street, and carries the bags for her neighbor, helps her neighbor into her house, and brings each bag into her neighbor’s kitchen.


What if I told you the woman above was me.  And what if I told you that according to the state of California, I am also a disabled woman.  Do my actions match the mental image you had?

Probably not.  Most people have a very limited idea of what a disabled person looks like.  I know I used to.

Which brings me to my newest essay.  Last week, The Mighty published my personal essay “Why ‘Invisibility’ Is Not a Superpower When It Comes to Illness.”  You can click here to read it. 

And remember, just because you can’t see someone’s pain, doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting.



6 thoughts on “Here’s Why Invisibility Isn’t Always a Super Power 

  1. So poignant! Your disability is the bad news; the good news is your eloquence in writing about it, the family that is so loving and supportive, and the remarkable woman that you are. I love reading your works… Hugs to you and yours! Zhita


  2. My grandmother used to say we all live three lives: the public, the private and the secret. Your article suggests another category: the invisible. Each of us carries a vast array of invisible physical and emotional realities. A person in a 12-Step meeting once shared that he was slow to cross a street and was honked at by an impatient driver. The driver did not know — could not know — the pedestrian was slow because he had just swallowed two hundred Bufferin PM in an attempt to kill himself. His invisible pain became visible in that way, and he was able to get help. But as you remind us, Wendy, sometimes nothing can be done. May we be more compassionate for all the pain we cannot see in others.


    • John, thank you for your heartfelt words. I loved your last line about everyone learning to be more compassionate. We all are carrying pain in some shape or form. Imagine what a difference it would make if more compassion and patience were shown to our fellow humans.


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