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To the Man at the Mall Who Told Me I Don't Need My Wheelchair

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Dear man at the mall,

You saw a 15-year-old girl in a wheelchair today. She looked perfectly healthy. She was even laughing. She was me.

I know I look too young to be in a wheelchair, but it’s simply a fact that anyone can be affected by a chronic illness. I use my wheelchair because it allows me to do normal things. The same with anyone else using any accessible device.

I know that you saw me bowling earlier. I also know that you didn’t see me falling back on the cushions exhausted by those eight steps to the lane. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) has taken a lot from me. If my body can handle those steps, I’m taking them.

I know that my legs work. Trust me, I know. I was a competitive cross country runner, swimmer, soccer player, high jumper and I had to watch helplessly as my muscles deteriorated and my times slowed. I couldn’t do anything about it. I can no longer run a half-marathon but my legs help me propel my chair and allow me to be more independent.

I look happy – and I am happy. It took me a long time to accept my illnesses and how they affect me. It took me a long time to accept my new body and its limitations. Thankfully I now take each day as it comes and that particular Friday I got out of bed and used the little energy I had to have fun with my friends. Just because I am laughing and joking around with my friends does not mean that I am well. Just because I am sick does not mean that I cannot be happy.

I understand that you don’t know my life story and I understand that not a lot of people are educated on my illnesses.

It by no means allows you to accuse me of faking, but instead allows me to educate. I only hope that you will one day understand and use this knowledge for the better.

The girl that does need her wheelchair.

Getty Image by shironosov

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Originally published: April 3, 2018
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