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To the Guy on the Elevator: Not Everyone Can Take the Stairs

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I was in the elevator with my friend and four guys. When we arrived at my floor, each one of them laughed sarcastically and then one passively aggressively said, “Yeah guys, isn’t it so hard to walk up one flight of stairs?”

Well, actually sir, it is.

• What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
• What Are Common Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Symptoms?

You see, you may be the average college student. One who is stressed out about finals and tensely trying to get a place to study. But me? I am not the average college student.

While you are hurrying to a desk in the library, I am avoiding an overload of pain. See, I am putting on a show as I act like a “normal” college student. But the reality is, I live every second on my life at risk of injury and dealing with pain that just never ends.

For you, these last few weeks of the semester are probably times when you put your social life on pause momentarily so you can do as well as possible on your exams and essays. My social life is always on pause, for every decision I make will take a toll on
my body later. You may not be able to predict the questions your professor gives you on your exam, neither am I, but I also have to trust that those same professors will understand my illness and allow my accommodations. See, those professors that are hard graders for you, they (like you) don’t believe that I have anything wrong with me, despite the pages of paperwork that I must explain to each one. So, I end up having to do all of the same things that you do, no matter the pain that it causes me.

When you do not want to wake up for that 9 a.m. class that you unthinkingly registered for, I’ve been awake since 3 a.m. trying desperately to find a position where my limbs do not detach from my body. You may be able to roll out of bed and gracefully get to class 10 minutes late, but I am 10 minutes late because I was taping my shoulders and hips to keep my limbs attached to the trunk of my body.

While you are pulling all-nighters to prepare for exams, I’m pulling all-nighters because my legs are on fire. While you are able to plan for your day, I never know what injuries my body will bring.

You see, I am a zebra. My stripes may be invisible to you, because I have sweaters over my braces, but the pain is all there. You get winded walking up two flights of stairs but not one. Try doing it when your knees bend the opposite direction.

So yes, it really is that hard to walk up one flight of stairs. I’m glad it isn’t for you, but don’t assume that just because “I don’t look sick” that I’m not. I’m fighting a battle you cannot see, one that is never going to go away. And you are not the first to make a comment to earn a laugh from your friends, but I have never been around someone so proud to belittle. I don’t expect you to know about my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, but I expect you to treat everyone with respect – even if they slow you down by a few seconds.

Thinkstock Image By: Tatomm

Originally published: May 1, 2017
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