To The Stranger Who Invalidated My Illness

By Rachel Kassenbrock
This post originally appeared on The Mighty, a site connecting people facing disability and disease.

Julie McGovern had always been athletic, so when she began experiencing shortness of breath, nausea, migraines and other debilitating symptoms whenever she tried to exercise, she knew something was wrong.

“I went to the doctor and they told me it was nothing… I knew they were wrong,” McGovern wrote in a Facebook post. “I knew my body and I knew something was very wrong.”

Eventually, McGovern found a doctor who heard her out. She was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition affecting the nervous system characterized by an abnormal heart rate increase. But even after receiving a diagnosis, McGovern says she frequently faces disbelief from people because her illness isn’t visible, so she keeps from speaking up about it.

Until now. On July 20, McGovern posted the photo below of a note someone left on her car in response to the handicapped placard on her dashboard. The note read, “FAKER.”

Photo from Julie McGovern’s Facebook page

McGovern was hurt and angered by the note. But rather than continuing to keep silent about her illness, she’s choosing to use her experience as a chance to make her voice heard and raise awareness about her condition. She’s encouraging others to share her post in the hopes that people who second guess those who “don’t look handicapped,” will see it and have a change of heart.

Today my illness was invalidated, but it doesn’t make my illness any less real or my fight any less important,” McGovern wrote in the post accompanying the photo above. “I will continue to park in the handicap spot and I will raise my head high and continue to join the fight in searching for a cure.”

Read McGovern’s entire post here.

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