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Don't Pity Me Because I Have a Disability

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I am a strong advocate for trying to find the silver lining in life. This is a new way of thinking for me, but after becoming physically disabled at 39 I had to make some changes in my life. I am not a fan of comparing myself to people who “have it worse” in order to feel better. And most importantly I am not an example of someone who “has it worse,” or better for that matter.

People are kind, helpful and patient with me 95 percent of the time. Using a walker slows me down, makes certain things more difficult for me and requires that others help me sometimes. I also like to go out and about on my own, so often those people are strangers holding doors for me, giving me space in line, smiling and saying hello. I appreciate those people and do my best to forget the 5 percent of people who are not so understanding. But sometimes I hear people near me say to each other, “at least you don’t have to use a walker.” “You should be thankful you’re not disabled.” “I can’t imagine how hard that is for her.”

I am not an example of a bad life, a sad person, or someone who needs or wants your pity. I am not an example of how bad your life could be, nor should you look at me and be happy that you’re not me. I am not an example of what you think it means to be disabled, to use a walker, to need help.

Two-and-a-half years ago I was told by one of my favorite doctors, “There is no medical reason for you to be alive. I have no idea how you aren’t dead. I don’t know if you’re going to live another six months but I will work my ass off to try.” Nothing about how my disability affects me today is worse than those words. Using a walker is something I have worked very hard to be able to do. What you see at the grocery store — me being slow, getting confused, taking up too much room in the isle is the healthiest I have been in the last two-and-half years. The things that make you pity me are major accomplishments.

If pointing out my disabilities makes you feel better, fine, but then turn it into kindness for me or anyone. If you “can’t imagine having to live like that,” do something helpful. Offer someone help, a smile, a kind word. And please pity me where I can’t hear you.

Getty image by FamVeld.

Originally published: August 26, 2019
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