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When Strangers Say They're Sorry I Have a Disability

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While walking on a Sunday afternoon clutching the arm of a friend, as my legs felt especially wobbly and the brain fog was in full force, we were approached by an elderly woman. She asked me how I got injured, and as we answered in unison “no, it’s permanent” she gave a sorrowful response. As we parted with the woman, my friend told me how she can see why her response would be frustrating.

That was the third time I was approached that day.

A few days prior, I was at a shoe store picking out a new pair of Converse. I had just picked up my new hinged AFO, which meant new shoes, and I was excited. As I was trying on my shoes, an employee asked what happened. As I explained that I have a drop foot, I was bombarded with a thousand questions and “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”

I just wanted a size 6.

Bailey by a lake wearing her AFO.
Bailey by a lake wearing her AFO.

Before I became disabled, I didn’t see that being disabled or sick isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person, especially a young and vibrant teenager.

As a society, we put a lot of our worth into our bodies, whether that is trying the latest diet or makeup trend, or as deeply ingrained as how our legs function. While I fully see I am not any less of a person because of my long list of diagnoses, that does not mean others do, too.

My inability to run or jump in no way means that my life is lacking. It doesn’t rob me of my joy, because my joy does not come from my physical being. It comes from my beliefs — I am filled with the joy of the Lord and that is sufficient for me.

I am an athlete, a sister, a friend, and those should mean so much more than the limitations on my body.

But to most, it seems they don’t.

I don’t blame you for thinking this way. Most of us never get the chance to see the world through a new light. But please don’t interrupt my day to stare or express your pity.

I challenge you to change the way you view differences. They are simply that, something unlike you but not tragic or heartbreaking. I am not a tragedy, and you shouldn’t feel sorry for me; I certainly don’t.

My life is far more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

Follow this journey on Miss Bailey Mae.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: May 9, 2016
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