“What have you done?”
The question I hear a hundred times a day. Bus drivers, shop assistants, old ladies or old men, customers at the charity shop where I volunteer, friends I haven’t seen in a while, or simply nosy strangers.
I used to answer civilly- “I was born with dodgy hips” “an operation went wrong” “my ballet teacher pushed me too hard” on and on, little snippets of the whole story because the full story is too long, too boring and too painful to be shared in response to a throw away inquiry. But now? I’m sick to death of it. I find intended insult or implied criticism, they mean sympathy in their “What have you done?” when they see me struggling on crutches, obviously in pain, but I hear accusation of clumsiness, blaming me for my state.
It is not like a broken leg. If you break your leg, 7 times out of 10 its because you were doing something slightly silly and dangerous.
Not so for me.
So now I answer “I haven’t DONE anything” or “Nothing, I use these [indicating crutches] for fun” “The doctors did it for me thanks” or I just give them a blank stare or an awkward laugh. Or I tell part of the truth “I hurt my knee in a car accident” which whilst being true, is not responsible for my inability to walk without aids. Or I throw doctor speak at them “I had a triple pelvic osteotomy which went wrong three times, the most recent resulting in a labriel tear in the socket cartilage.” this is always a risky strategy however, as occasionally they understand, then I have to deal with their pity, their sympathy, their recommendations for doctors and hospitals. The most hilarious thing is I’m already at the “best” hospital in the country for orthopedics. They’re the ones that took a girl with slight twinges in her right hip and created this wreck I am today with no hope for a future without pain, living off government money.
I disgust myself.
But their pity makes it worse. Don’t they realise it’s already bad enough being treated like a freak, having cruel children point and laugh and try to trip me up, having the sympathy smiles or the irritated looks when I’m struggling to get out of someones way.
I don’t want pity or sympathy.
I want to be treated like a person who occasionally needs help, not like someone to avoid or to feel pity for because you’re secretly glad its not you.
I understand I am a burden to society, to my family and friends. I understand I am ruining my mother’s life as she is forced to care for me. I understand I drive my boyfriend mad with worry. What YOU don’t understand, YOU infamous strangers who ask me how I am, what is wrong, why I am disabled, what YOU don’t understand is how it makes me feel. How much I would give to be normal. I have never played the system, never asked for more than I need, never gone out of my way to convenience myself at others expense.
So don’t you dare ask what I have supposedly done to myself. Don’t you DARE. I hope everyone reads this so they understand how what seems like an innocent question can tear someone disabled up inside. How your innocent words can hurt.
Treat me, treat us, like people. Not like objects of pity and misunderstanding.
Debbimouse, over and out.