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To the Well-Intentioned Humans Who Think I'm 'Too Young' to Be Disabled

I know you mean well. Frankly, I really do appreciate that you had the courage (and courtesy) to ask why I have a cane rather than leaving me to squirm and feel judged as you stare at my “normal” looking legs. I didn’t even mind when you suggested a chiropractor for me to try, as though I haven’t tried chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, occupational therapy, and supplements in more numbers than my age. I enjoyed our conversation with the exception of one lonesome phrase. Ironically enough, it was one of the first things out of your mouth after I told you that I am recovering from spontaneous paralysis. You looked at me with such a well-meaning glance, and you said, “But you’re so young.”

I know you meant it as a phrase of sympathy, an expression of the fact that this is not something anyone expects to go through when they are as “young” as me. But when someone who is in my position hears that phrase we may interpret it differently.

We already have doctors telling us our bodies don’t work the way they should.

We already feel betrayed by the very muscles and nerves we have grown with all our lives.

We already feel discouraged, victimized, and at war with an entity that we can’t escape: ourselves.

To hear the phrase, “But you’re so young,” belittles the fact that we are experiencing pain, discomfort, confusion and struggle every day. Being young does not excuse us — or anyone — from those things.

To us, it may feel like we can’t even “correctly” have a disability. That even in our disability, we are black sheep: people who don’t quite belong.

but you’re so young

We don’t fit in with our peers, and your phrase reminds us that we also don’t fit in with the people who “typically” experience what we are going through; that we are separated not only by physicality, but also by generation.

but you’re so young

Makes us feel alone.

Being young and being female does not exclude anyone from experiencing hardship. Please don’t take my community of fellow limpers and cane-toting crochet addicts and try to revoke my membership because of my age.

I am young. I am also disabled. I am also strong as hell, hurt as hell, and sick as hell of being sick as hell. So yes. Express your sympathy, but please don’t tell me that I’m too young to be experiencing what I am experiencing.

Because as a matter of fact, I am.

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