What I Should Have Told the Man Who Said I Had the 'Most Pathetic' Walk


“Wow — you look happy to be here!” A man I barely recognized from our work office sarcastically commented while effortlessly jogging up the stairs, “That is the slowest, most pathetic walk I have seen in my life!”

My heart hit my stomach. I gurgled a laugh a moment later as I eventually reached the top of the staircase, that he managed to dart up in the time it took me to climb the last four steps. “I don’t feel well,” I mumbled, feeling my heart pounding and my cheeks flushing. I didn’t know what else to say. He gave what felt like a slightly degrading laugh and waltzed into the office block opposite mine. I stood there for a second trying to absorb what had just happened.

As soon as I was alone I felt the tears swell up in my eyes and a crushing regret of not being honest about the situation… Not educating a stranger on the reality of my life. Letting him assume that I was a moody, tired teenager procrastinating starting my work shift. He was wrong. I should have explained the following.

I am registered disabled. I partially dislocated my hip, three ribs and shoulder getting here. I took seven pills to enable me to manage the pain, headaches, swelling, nausea and fatigue. But I did it. I got myself here despite all odds — my body begging for nothing but rest. I am determined to earn a living. To earn money to fund my education, to still remain an active contributing member of society while I still can.

I was happy to be there. It showed an invisible badge of determination and strength only those with a chronic health condition can understand. However, due to being too scared to receive *the disapproving look* of getting an elevator up just one floor in our six-story office I faced the stairs, despite it feeling like a crushing, painful challenge.

Fear took over and I blew off the comment with the first thing that came to mind due to embarrassment. I should have been honest with him. He assumed that because I don’t look sick and was half his age I was healthy and simply miserable to start my work day and made a joke about it.

His comment has shaken my confidence and made me reevaluate how others see me, but I can only hope that by sharing this story I can encourage people not to feel ashamed or too shy to speak up about their condition and to help educate people on the day-to-day reality of chronic illness — particularly as May is dedicated the awareness month for a range of conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and fibromyalgia.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by m-gucci


Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.


Related to Chronic Illness

mo brooks

To the Congressman Who Said People Without Pre-Existing Conditions 'Lead Good Lives'

As many of you may know, the House of Representatives passed an act to repeal and replace our current healthcare system. Lots of people have lots of opinions on it, and have been sharing them freely on social media platforms. This post isn’t to necessarily give you my opinion on this act, so much as [...]
Pregnant woman sits with doctor in doctor's office.

9 Pieces of Advice I’d Give Myself About Having a Child While Chronically Ill

Recently, I got back in touch with an old friend of mine whom I hadn’t spoken to in years. This friend, like myself, bravely struggles with both chronic physical and mental health issues, as many people do. She is also considering having children, and asked if I could consider writing some posts about how I [...]
woman holding coffee cup and looking out window

When People Get Competitive About Which Health Crises Are 'Worse'

Every couple of years, people around the world are invigorated by watching the Olympics. Even if we don’t watch the actual games, we’re bombarded with news articles and social media posts praising all the record breakers and medal winners. We admire the athletes’ competitive spirit, and root for our favorites (or our country) to win, [...]
silhouette of man and woman dancing together by the ocean at sunset

Re-Learning to Dance With Illness as My New Partner

As a dancer, I’ve always expressed my emotions through dance. I would tell a story of my own emotional battles through either my improvisation or my choreography. Lately I have been really down about not being able to physically express my current struggles through dance. I sometimes hear the perfect song and envision myself telling [...]