If you could get inside my mind growing up with a disability, you’d discover I have two sensitive areas. The first of those areas is being stared at. Most days, like I posted in Loving You Disability, I try to look at being stared as a good thing. I literally turn heads when I walk into a room. But there’s days…days like today…where I hate it. I’d already had a disappointing experience with a neighbor when I ventured out to Yogurtland. The was a girl sitting outside with her mom. She couldn’t have been more than 16 but as I got out of my car and walked up to the entrance, she stared at me the whole time. After so many years of dealing with it, you get used to the pattern in which people stare at you. First, they stare at your face and then they look down at your legs, then your feet. I know logically it’s not a direct affront to me. It’s just natural curiosity. People can’t figure out why I’m limping I think. But for me, on a bad day, it feels completely and utterly personal. I know I have a disability obviously but sometimes it would be nice if I could just get on with my day and not have other people notice. To just be able to live like anyone else who doesn’t have one. Walk in, get yogurt, and leave.
The second area might sound a little more out there. I can be extremely sensitive to people talking (or getting totally silent) when I walk by. For a great part of my life, I was convinced that when I had to sit in the front of the class or walked by a group of people, they would immediately start talking about me or saying mean things. As I got in my car after grabbing my gummy bear-topped ice cream I heard a girl behind me say “I would hate to be her.” Now the almost-30 year old part of me wanted to shake it off and realize (as I often do) that not everything is about me and the girls were probably talking about someone totally different. Most people aren’t nearly as concerned with me or my disability as I might they think are (which as mentioned previously can also be frustrating). But it’s something I’ve struggled with for so many years that my brain has gotten trained to automatically think that it is about me and that they were being mean because I was limping, or because of what I was wearing or even because of the super attractive tan lines I have running across my shins from a bad sunburn.
I’ve kind of lived in a mental prison of my own making for most of my life and sometimes I still put those metal bars right back up. I know both of these issues really have nothing to do with other people. It’s all my own discomfort and perception of my disability. I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb in the world so I notice when people notice that I’m different. I think this is why when I walk places I try just look straight ahead and be oblivious to what’s going on around me. People tell me guys check me out all the time but I don’t notice because I’m just trying not to notice if people are talking about me or noticing my limp. I’m not always happy with the fact I have a limp or have MD either and I say mean things to myself about it, so of course I’m going to think other people are going to be saying mean things too. Even if people were, I shouldn’t care. Do I really want my self-esteem to hinge on what some 16 year old girl or a group of girls sitting at a table that I will likely never see again think? I’m definitely still working on letting myself out of prison (and passing Go and Collecting $200…Monopoly anyone?). I’d like to say it’s something I’ll be able to fix and never have to deal with again because I feel like I say “this is probably something I’ll struggle with my whole life” a lot. And there’s some things I don’t want to struggle with for my whole life. I should be able to stop getting so upset over something I can’t change anyway. This is my life, these are the cards I was dealt. I can either play my hand the best I know how, or I can fold.