Hey! I never know how to reintroduce myself to you after being away for a while, and oddly enough, the topic at hand today is how you can reintroduce yourself to people as someone with a disability.
Let me explain: Over the course of my life, I have been the target of many curious eyes, and I’ve read lips as they whisper about me, either using me as a teaching point for their child or hissing that the kids should not stare.
How I felt about staring changed pretty significantly throughout my life. As a child, kids were just being kids. (As an adult this still holds true.) As a teenager, my significant limp was an awkward barrier to me forming relationships. I was shy and insecure about me, and so were they. Now, as a budding young adult romantically involved with an able-bodied man, my disability is part of what makes us unique as a couple. It also means that now we as a unit attract more eyeballs than ever.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all for how to handle able-bodied people doing well-intentioned things, not knowing how it could make you feel. Sometimes you have to gauge the situation based on the other perspective. After all, how you feel about someone staring at you will change as you get older and grow as a person, and as the people around you grow as well.
But the hope for a brighter future doesn’t change the heavy feeling of right now. So, when people stare at you, resist the urge to curl up into yourself and hide behind your mother; hold in the urge to spit out some diagnostic facts to make yourself seem less sick, as you did as a teenager. And don’t think that your disability is the only thing that defines your experience as you begin to navigate adulthood.
When people stare, trust that they are just curious beings too sensitive to know how to properly ask the question. Don’t hold it all in and take it all so personally. Maybe offer a smile and a simple head nod to acknowledge that you see them and open the door for conversation.
After all, when people stare, know that you hold power in the situation, too. Dress up your walker in lion tape. Decorate your cane with red and orange swirled tape to represent flames. Put cool LED lights on your wheelchair, a horn, some pom-poms on the wheels. Make yourself pop. If people are going to stare, show them your stripes. You are worth it.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.