Don't Judge by the Cover

I received a text today – that made me want to write up an article about this issue. The text was from my good friend (twin) Kara, who also has MS and is around my age. It said, “You know the saying: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover? It’s like… don’t judge a person by their invisible illness.”

I know that the whole ‘judgment’ issue has probably been covered before, but I feel like I need to vent about this, as well as expanding on the whole judgmental thing.

There is that famous saying, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” I’ve heard it all my life and I know that a lot of you probably have too. Even most of the general public has heard that saying before, have repeated it, etc.

However, its one thing to say don’t judge but it’s the follow through that really has an impact on someone as an individual and the people they surround themselves with and come into contact with.

I do know that there are a lot of people with Multiple Sclerosis who are unfortunately ‘viewed’ as disabled, due to a physical symptom caused by MS. But there are some people with MS, myself included, that don’t seem to have any type of impairment.

Just the other day, I went into my local county’s office, to get my new-handicapped placard, because mine is expiring this month. After sitting there and waiting for a bit, which drives me insane, I finally get called up. I figured that getting my new placard would be an easy process, that didn’t require a lot of time. Well, I was wrong.

I had my neurologist write me a script for the placard, even though I have been prescribed a placard in the past for a ‘permanent’ placard, just in case. Well I’m glad that I had that on hand because I don’t even want to know what would have happened, had I not.

Now, I had my current (almost expired) handicapped placard with me in the office, so that they could pull up my file. I honestly felt like I was being interrogated by the police, rather than just trying to get my new placard. I answered multiple questions, sometimes more than once. I guess they were trying to see if I was lying? They also were trying to make sure that the prescription wasn’t forged and they also wanted to make sure that my ID wasn’t a fake.

Why did this happen to me you ask? Well, that’s a VERY good question. Just going off of the questions I was asked, I would say that this happened to me because I look “fine”. Why would I need a handicapped placard? Now had I gone and done this in the middle of Texas Summer, I don’t think that I would have been given the interrogation. Usually with the extreme heat, I am a bit more impaired and at times, need assistance with my mobility.

This just goes to show you that people shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover.”

There was also that whole Kanye West Convert incident that made headlines, about how he wanted the WHOLE crowd to stand up at his concert, and if they couldn’t they had to ‘prove’ they were handicapped, or at least that’s what the media reported.

I just feel that if my neurologist and the State classify me as disabled, what gives others the right to judge me about it? Or want me to prove my disability? This isn’t something I want to ‘flaunt’, it’s not something that I want for myself or anyone else. I know that there are some people out there that abuse the system when it comes to claiming disability, but that shouldn’t cloud individuals judgment when it comes to someone who is actually disabled, for a legitimate reason.

I also sometimes need to use my cane if I’m having a bad day, if I over did previously, etc. My friend Kara I brought up in the beginning, chatted with me today about this issue, because she is out using her cane while running errands and attending community functions. Here are some of the things she sent me,

“ I hate pity looks. Needing to walk with a cane, and then you get those pity looks from people. OR When one day you don't necessarily need the cane, then you get judgmental looks. Probably thinking/saying, ‘Oh I bet she didn't really need it in the first place.’ Know what I mean? Ticks me off!!”

Note:(Some words were edited, but you get the picture.)

My friend and I shouldn’t have to ‘relate’ about this issue, or anyone else for that matter battling MS, or any other invisible illness. There is no age limit when getting diagnosed with MS, there’s no specific disease course we all follow exactly… we are going at this blind. We don’t know what’s going to happen with our disease progression.

It’s exhausting to have to ‘prove’ ones disability when it comes to invisible illnesses/invisible symptoms. Before anyone tries to make a snide comment about our MS and how we’re affected by it, they need to be educated about the disease prior to making any judgment/statement.

For those of us who battle an invisible illness every single day of our lives, we don’t need any type of negative judgment, comments, actions made towards us. Unless you can walk a mile in our shoes, DO NOT JUDGE BY THE COVER!

Okay, I’m going to end this article here, before I get anymore heated that I already am. I could write about this specific topic for days and most of them be from personal encounters.

For those of you reading this and in complete agreement with me and/or understand what I’m talking about, here is a big hug for you! Because no one should have to go through this, we shouldn’t have these judgmental situations in common.


Ashley Ringstaff

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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