Talk About Hidden Disabilities

I had an interesting encounter on the weekend that reminded me of the realities of living with an invisible illness or a hidden disability.

So I was at Canada’s Wonderland (did you expect me to be anywhere else?), using up a free “fast lane pass” I had been given as part of my 2016 Season’s Pass renewal (hell yeah, for perks!).  For those who aren’t aware, the fast lane pass allows the person carrying the pass to skip the regular queue, thus getting you on rides faster.

Canada's Wonderland fast pass
What a great free gift!

While I’d normally request a boarding pass during my visit, there really was no need to get one on that visit. Because of the pass, I could get on any ride in under 20 minutes or less, allowing me to empty my pouch without any issues (and I did empty my pouch 3 or 4 times during my visit).

Now, there are several types of boarding passes, with the most common being one they give to parents of kids with Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There’s another pass for medical disabilities, too, which is the one I’d normally get.  

My reason for getting a boarding pass is that I can’t wait 1-2 hours for some of the more popular rides without having to use the bathroom (and losing my spot in line), so the pass allows me to get into a virtual line based on a ride time; it’s a completely valid reason for getting a pass, and the park has no trouble issuing one to me or any other ostomate who requests it.

I visited the park alone, and was really enjoying some big coasters, when rode with a guy who was probably in his 50s – Stewart is his name.

He was an interesting guy who also loved coasters, so we really hit it off.  We ended up running into each other a few times during our visit, as we were both frantically trying to get on as many rides as humanly possible.

Near the end of the evening, we spent a good hour or so riding together, and chatting about everything from theme parks to raising kids (and grandkids). While in line to get on the front row of Leviathan, the biggest coaster in Canada, we were told by the ride attendant that we would have to wait for the next train to arrive because there was a family using a boarding pass ahead of us.

Stewart turned to me and said (and I’m paraphrasing here): “I don’t know… they don’t look disabled”.

I turned to him, smiled, and said: “You know, if I didn’t have this fast pass, I would be using my boarding pass, too, because I’m also disabled”. And after explaining a bit about my ostomy, and my inability to control bowel movements because of it, I think he understood that there’s often more than meets the eye.

Wild Beast Canada's Wonderland shot from Leviathan
This shot was taken literally minutes before this situation happened. (That’s Wild Beast, shot from the deck of Leviathan).

It was pretty cool to be in a situation where I’m able to offer some insight into the lives of people with a hidden disability. I’ll be honest, I don’t notice the eye-rolls, and comments coming from others who have to wait an extra few minutes while I use my boarding pass, but I’m almost certain that it happens a lot – we are very often being judged.

This is why I feel that public awareness of ostomies, IBD, and other invisible illnesses is always needed. Sometimes, when we “don’t look sick“, it only takes one person to change someone else’s perspective, and that benefits everyone.

So the next time you have an opportunity to talk about your hidden illness or disability, do so proudly, because you have a chance to turn prejudice into understanding.

I’m thinking that the next time I visit the park, I’ll be wearing my “Ask Me About My Ostomy” t-shirt!

Further Reading

Psychology Today: Hidden Disabilities

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
4 years ago

I do’t know where else to put this question
I have an illeostomy (Non’15); two months ago I was diagnosed with two hernias in the abdomen wall; I heard you mention hernia belt and ostomy together. I’m don’t remember the association. Anyway can you give some information about a belt

Laura Cox
Laura Cox
6 years ago

This is awesome! :) I love that you “planted a seed” of awareness in your coaster companion!

Sarah Goldstein
Sarah Goldstein(@sarahrg1)
6 years ago

i tried to sign on for the giveway, but somehow, it was not letting me click on to enter the contest! wah!

6 years ago

Hey Sarah, here’s the direct link, please let me know if this works:


Sarah Goldstein
Sarah Goldstein(@sarahrg1)
6 years ago

i know the feeling! i’ve been known to jump out of moving cars to get to the bathroom in time (hopefully!) thank goodness for my ileostomy in 1999! i too am also on the spectrum!

Sara Ringer (@Sara_Ringer)

Such a good point.

6 years ago

we have yet to come up against this, but have no doubt that we will. I have had issues in the past due to being ASD myself, but my husband has yet to have to deal with it for himself.