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Why It's Hard for Me to Be Around Healthy People as a Person With Chronic Illness

As a young single adult, I have had the hard conversation all too often about why that guy walked away from me. Why that guy (or friend) decided to leave. The hard reality or truth I have learned is that, most of the time, they are just scared, or they don’t know how to be around sick people. It scares them being reminded of their own mortality. I have come up with dozens of reasons but these were always the most popular ones. Many healthy people find it hard to be around sick people, like myself.

Another honest tidbit of knowledge I’m reminded of today is that sometimes sick people, like myself, find it hard to be around healthy people. Not for the same reasons. No. While my pain reminds them of their own mortality, their ability to go through life and, quite honestly, take it for granted pains me even more. Maybe you can just get up in the morning and get ready for the day, or perhaps stay up all night and still make it through a long day at the office. The healthy can see, or speak, or hear, or walk, or eat and drink whatever they feel like eating and drinking at the moment. When was the last time they stopped to really think of these for what they truly are: blessings. Luxuries?

We live in a world where being different is often seen as bad. Where people say, “She will never amount to anything.” Or make him feel bad for his speech impediment or inability to look others in the eye. I live in a world that says my feeding tube and PICC line, the very things keeping me alive, are bad. The line can cause a potentially fatal infection, oral nutrition is ideal. I live in a world where my wheelchair is almost unacceptable because, since I still have use of my legs, I should just be walking and exercising.

Tell me, when did fighting for my life become bad or unacceptable? When did it become something to be ashamed of or feel sorry for? I find it hard to be around healthy people because they often want to try and fix me, they feel sorry for me and want to change me and sometimes they use my limitations to make themselves feel better. I’m grateful for the ones who just want to love me and serve me because they can – not because they feel sorry for me – and who stand by me.

On the other hand, I also believe we live in a world where being disabled or having a disadvantage is something to be admired. There is still a beautiful soul behind those eyes that can’t see. There is still a beautiful soul behind those ears that can’t hear, or the voice that can’t be heard. In every wheelchair sits a soul who struggles, and often has to work twice as hard to be taken seriously, and to succeed in life. We are not a showcase.

We are people too. We have goals and dreams and desires. We love, and we feel more pain than you may even be able to comprehend. Behind our smiles lies grief, sorrow, pain and souls not willing to give up, but somehow we have turned into a showcase many healthy or able-bodied people use to cheer themselves up, to inspire themselves to keep trying. Don’t do it for us. Whatever the task, whatever your struggle is, try and keep on trying for yourself, for the growth you will encounter in the process. Like I said, we are not a showcase.

If you want to know the secret behind my smile and happiness, I’ll tell you. I count my blessings. I know no matter what comes my way I can make it through the dark days ahead because I have survived all of the other bad days behind me, and I made it through today. There may be days I can’t see, days I can’t speak, days I can’t walk, and I may be feeding tube-dependent but I am blessed. I still have my will to fight.

I can’t even imagine if people like Helen Keller or Beethoven had listened when the world said they couldn’t do it, or they wouldn’t amount to anything, can you? Our individual worth has more to do with our potential – which we all hold – than it does our abilities. We can be blind or deaf and write beautiful music, unable to speak and make some noise, unable to walk or use our hands and still move mountains. All it takes is faith in ourselves. We will, we can and we are amounting to something. We are all important and needed, and we are all worth more than we may even be able to comprehend. That’s OK, as long as we remember our worth has more to do with our potential than it does our limitations.

So to those who can’t see, speak, hear, walk or eat, I say: You’ve got this. You’re beautiful and you are worth the fight.

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