Sammy Nickalls
May 08, 2015 10:22 am

Living with a disability can be one of the most difficult things a person can go through. But those who live with an invisible disability don’t only have to live with intense pain, exhaustion, and physical symptoms, but intense scrutiny from others. Just because someone doesn’t look like they have a disability, that doesn’t mean they don’t have to live with these symptoms every day of their lives—and that’s a brutal fact that many simply don’t comprehend.

British woman Sarah Metcalfe, 35, was reminded of that the hard way on April 30th, when she was out shopping. She had parked her car in an accessible space and returned to find the following cruel, heartless note on her car:

There are so many awful things about this note, it’s hard to know where to begin. Attacking the way someone looks? Reinforcing damaging beauty standards as a way to put down a stranger? Assuming you understand somebody’s personal health issues when you don’t know them at all? Taking the time to hurt someone’s feelings on some weird stationary all because of a parking space? The mind boggles.

Whoever wrote the note also didn’t know (or perhaps, care) that Sarah suffers from fibromyalgia, which leaves her with intense chronic pain, as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

So Sarah decided to use this awful experience as a teachable moment by posting the note on Facebook, along with a kind, understanding open letter to the stranger who tried to hurt her feelings.

She then urged readers to share the photograph so that more people can learn from the incident using the hashtag “#ExactlyWhatDoesDisabilityLookLike.”

Since it was posted to Facebook, the letter has been shared over 3,000 times and received a ton of press in the UK. Sarah, meanwhile, has been flooded with messages of support.

The post has also prompted commenters to share their own “invisible” disabilities along with similar insensitive experiences they’ve faced despite their struggles.

“I cried when I read this post,” wrote one commenter who suffers from Neuromyelitis Optica, a neurological disorder that affects the optic nerve and spinal cord.

“I’ve had people confront me in a more social setting and say that I don’t look disabled if I have some reason to mention that I am disabled,” another commenter shared. “I just say ‘Really, and what exactly does disabled look like?’ They tend to change the subject pretty quick.”

For Sarah, who developed fibromyalgia with CFS, after what she calls “a nasty accident,” posting the note was a chance to “raise awareness of the ignorance that people like me face and avoid this happening again.”  In the Facebook comments section, she also added this: “No one should ever judge anyone on body image especially with the risks of our slimming culture. . . I just want this person not to do it again. I can forgive them, we all make mistakes.”

“I know I’m beautiful inside and out,” she continued. “I am becoming proud of my curves and me.. just feel sorry for them.. whoever has done this could pick on the wrong person one day.”

This woman is a hero in so many ways.  It takes a truly good, kind person to transform a hateful moment and into an amazing lesson to teach others about an important cause. Sarah, we think you’re beautiful inside and out too, and thank you for raising awareness for those with invisible disabilities.

(Images via Facebook)

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