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When I Was Told My Legs Are 'Too Pretty' for Me to Use a Wheelchair

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It has been hard enough to convince myself I am sick enough and worthy enough of assistance to ask for help. It’s been hard enough to accept that I need to use a wheelchair, let alone a new one. It’s been hard enough to roll into school as the only wheelchair user. It’s been hard enough to be so obviously disabled, no longer able to cover up my signs of battle with skillfully sneaky cane placement, hidden pill guzzling, and a fantastic concealer. It’s been hard enough being referred from doctor to doctor, all of which have told the teenage me to “do my research and independently call a wheelchair manufacturer” using their simple prescription. It has been hard enough fielding questions from my peers and disappointed looks from family and friends. But what was just too hard was a simple text, “but your legs are so pretty!”

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I had texted my aunt (who I absolutely love but is definitely stuck deep in ableist culture), about how excited I was to finally get my prescription for the products I so desperately need and have been fighting for for so long. In response to “whatcha up to” I responded, “just finished getting my prescription for a new set of wheels. I’m so excited I’ll be able to do so much more!” I was so excited to start my journey to independence and I wanted to share my triumph with her.

Her response was, “You won’t use it much though, you have such pretty legs it would be a shame for you to not walk on them.”

I immediately broke down. I realized that based on the views of my family, they’d prefer me miserable in bed than out living life in a wheelchair. That’s not what she meant, but that’s exactly what she said.

After too many years and more self-doubt, I responded in a way I would never imagine I’d ever have the strength or self-acceptance to say. “I still have pretty legs in a wheelchair, and the best part is that’s how they are least painful.”

That’s the minute everything snapped together in my head. If my illogical brain had everything its way, I’d never be sick enough to need help. I’d always need to suffer more, be in more pain, be more miserable. If I couldn’t accept myself with all of my flaws, how could I project acceptance onto others?

Now it’s my proud duty to inform everyone: your legs are stunning in a wheelchair, they are flawless if they can walk, and they are spectacularly beautiful laying in a bed. They are gorgeous over the seat over a walker, and just as pretty next to a cane or in killer pain. Even when your legs fail you, they are not a shame, and you are not a shame.

Originally published: June 27, 2018
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