The Mighty Logo

When My Work Was Called Into Question Because of My Condition

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I had been used to the stares. By now I’d even ventured out into the great unknown of society and beyond my comfort zone of the darkness of the movie theater. I had grown tremendously since that Wednesday in May now knowing I will never be that person who entered the hospital that afternoon. What I didn’t realize was that for all of the time I have worked on myself, moved forward, and moved passed the days and nights of not knowing if I will be able to use my hand again or if my face will decide to go back to its recognized position, there will always be times that will trigger me to fall back right into a moment of vulnerability, devastation, and complete of loss of confidence. Right back to the individual couldn’t look herself in the mirror.

woman covering her face

It has since been a year and a half since that life-changing afternoon. I have weekly occurrences of speech deficits, paralysis and more. What I have chosen to do is not let it stop me from leading the life I want and choose to pursue. I have come a great distance physically, emotionally, and mentally, although I take on the perspective of “tackle one day at a time.” I didn’t realize the true meaning of this saying until last week. I have become more comfortable with my new body including all of its flaws and stubborn decisions, choosing to not let it stop me from running my business or doing the things I love. At this point, I haven’t noticed the stares when I bring Larry out (for those of you who don’t know Larry, he is my cane) or when the left side of my face hangs to the floor, or when I am talking in my own language that only my husband can translate. To me, you just keep going and don’t look back. I don’t see my condition as a hindrance, to say I don’t have my “pity days” would be lying, but they are not every day. Until last week when I had to realize that the world might see it another way.

I was called out.

Called out for having a walking assistant named Larry. Looked at differently for my mispronunciation of words and how my face changed. My broken brain was not cooperating and decided to go on its own adventure that week. I was judged while I was accompanied by Larry, my trusted companion and right-hand man. Good old Larry. I thought I got over facing the stares. The loud comments by children about my looks. But now because my competencies were being called into question. This became a whole new meaning. It was the first time I had been verbally called out, questioned of my capabilities because I was using a cane and my face had drooped over. Questioned over if I could complete my work. I was caught off guard, I have to admit. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to explain that this is my life. As much as I try and be transparent to my family, friends and clients, there are many things I hold back to not show weakness and see pity in others’ eyes as they look back at me. What I needed to do was put my big girl pants on and get to work and not feel bad for myself. Sitting here focusing on my sickness doesn’t help anyone. But sometimes as much as I do to help my body, include eating right and sleeping enough, my body decides on its own what it is going to do. The only thing I can do is try and not let it get in the way of my life and what I am trying to accomplish.

Going out in public with my cane and with my face sideways doesn’t bother me. It is the judgment that bothers me. Judgment that because I have a walking assistant and have a facial deformity I cannot do my job correctly. My mind is still here, I am still the same person with the same goals and strategic vision I was on the phone and by email. My leg just might not be working that well some days.

Appearances are a funny thing. It got me thinking. I don’t use my appearance to complete work. Half of the time, if I could wear yoga pants and no makeup I would, and when I worked from home I practiced this. My styled hair doesn’t create and strategize how to develop social media or consult on marketing plans for your business. Wearing makeup doesn’t determine if I can create your graphics or edit your photos.

I wasn’t sure if I was taking this too personally and needed to stack it up to being “just business” or if there was something more there. Were these preconceived notions with disabilities that I was just realizing and experiencing there all along? The truth. Yes. It is only due to the fact that since 2015 I have never had to deal with anything like this before. To put it gently, it made me see people and the world in a whole new light. I questioned how I was looked at by others and how judgmental I had been before. Saying nothing at all is worse than saying something at times. I did nothing or chose not to see that this was happening and how wrong this was. Now all of sudden my illness has made me see the world without the rose-colored glasses I seemed to have had on prior to this. Which is sad, as it shouldn’t take that to make me realize what is actually happening outside of the bubble I live in. This encounter didn’t feel great nor did I want it to ever happen again.

I felt like a scarlet letter had been cast on me and I had to prove myself to others all over again. My brain is still working, now harder than ever, even if my body doesn’t look like it at times. Explaining my situation didn’t matter, overcompensating for what was already passed was what I was in for. I wish I could just hide behind a computer forever so no one could know how complex migraines affect my life. I have adjusted accordingly, and that is what matters. I was used to this with every client, but now such a personal element was being brought to light, something I could not control. Yes, I use a cane at times. Yes, my face looks like a groupie of the Joker from the Batman movies and yes, my speech is a little slurred. But I have light and life in my eyes.

The moment this happened it brought me directly back to when I was told I had to remain in the hospital for five weeks and then fast forward to my three attempts at re-starting my business in September and the next months following. I was consumed with self-doubt and questioning all of the progress I had made. The Band Aids are still on my broken brain, slowing healing. I know this is one of the life lessons that will help me grow as a person and business owner, and I can only work harder to change people’s minds that they shouldn’t judge before they know one’s capabilities. There is a story behind every individual. Take the time to learn that story, and you might be surprised of what you learn and what they teach you in the process.

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

Originally published: January 14, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home