When I meet someone new, I don’t introduce my short term memory loss as if it were part of my name. Firstly, it’s kind of personal for me to talk about, and secondly, that’s kind of a strange thing to say to someone. “Hi, I’m Casey and I suffer from a short term memory loss.” Change the name in that sentence and it’s an exact quote from Finding Dory. While that movie is amazing and inspirational and probably deserves its’ own post, I am not an animated fish so I can’t quite get away with saying things like that in real life.
I probably should get in the habit of telling certain people like new bosses or co-workers about it, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. I can’t exactly bring it up in an interview because of my fear of not being hired despite discrimination laws, and also because I wouldn’t know how to start. Sometimes I wish I could wear a sign that explains my condition, but other times it feels like I already do.
So how do you explain an invisible disability so coworkers are more understanding when you don’t catch on right away? In my experience there is no one way. Sometimes there is no opportunity or right time to bring it up at all, so you just keep asking the same questions over and over while co-workers give you funny (judgmental) looks.
Other times, you talk to someone for a while and then once you feel comfortable enough you can open up to them. However, that option takes time and is usually less likely to happen. You really need to let your guard down to do that and that has always been tough for me. Additionally, the other person has to allow themselves to be vulnerable as well in order to be open to understanding what you’re trying to say.
The easier thing for others would be for someone with a disability to tell them right away, but sometimes for them, that is the hardest and most complicated option. So try not to be offended if someone with an invisible disability doesn’t immediately tell you what’s going on. It’s a huge inner struggle that they have to deal with, along with dealing with the condition itself. Just know that it is always harder for someone to admit they have a disability than for you to hear it.