Not everyone who goes through traumatic injury or significant life changes is going to want to talk about it all the time. Even I, the loquacious girl that I am, the one that blogs about recovery and healing and writes memoirs on the effects of disability acquisition, am not always in the mood to expand on the topic.
The truth of the matter is that anything drastically life altering like this is immensely personal. Even when the creation of this blog was just a vague idea we were throwing around, I noticed that my collaborator, whose idea this was in a large part, seemed to have her reservations about so openly sharing about our experiences on a regular basis. I had already been rather in touch with writing about it through the process of working on my memoirs already for a while prior to the discussion, but I do admit that part of the reason why I was comfortable with the blog medium was that it was relatively anonymous. I didn’t have to be identified if I didn’t want to be, and initially I avoided putting my face to the site.
Over time, and after gauging people’s tremendously positive responses to this blog, I have slowly become more revealing about who I am through it, and I have participated in, say, the UCMC ad campaign and shared my story with the directors of Falling Petals. I find that the more I share, the more people will resonate with my mission to spread awareness and help others in similar positions to wade through the muck that requires tremendous personal growth and physical tedium.
But we all wear different hats in day-to-day life, and the driving force behind this blog is only one of mine. I am first and foremost a human being, one who possesses ego just like any of you, that serves to protect my self-image. This post is particularly aimed at those of you who know someone who’s acquired disability or suffers from some type of chronic condition, whether it be physical or internal. There is an unspoken request, a burden we all carry, that the people close to us protect our “secret” and not advertise it to those who may not understand or whose business it isn’t to know about us.
I say this because I’ve frequently been victim to people who unwittingly disrespect my feelings by either a) reminding me of my condition (as if I could forget) or b) needlessly bring it up, which is really an extension of “a.”
Think about it this way: When you see someone rolling himself around in a wheelchair, you don’t ask them why they’re in a chair, do you? Or do you sense it’s a private matter, accept it, and move on?
Why do you think there are HIPPA laws protecting patient privacy?
No one wants their personal business unnecessarily whispered around in the wind, so please be sensitive to this, and either keep your questions in a private one-on-one setting (and if you’re dealing with a stranger, that moment may never be. Pay heed to this), or be tactful and relevant about the information.
What am I talking about? Here’s an excellent and deliciously obnoxious example: I was at Sears with my parents earlier this winter looking at snow blowers. Because I was uninterested in the entire shopping experience, I took a seat inside one of the hardcore car shovel concoctions as I waited for my parents to ask me to test out a blower they wanted to consider buying.
Suddenly, a young girl, probably about nineteen years old, walked up to me and said in a friendly voice, “I hear you have a disability. Do you?”
Taken aback, I assumed she must have been an employee of Sears there to help me find an appropriate snow blower that I could comfortably use. But when I replied, “Uh . . . yes, I do” she cheerfully announced, “So do I!”
The conversation was among the more awkward I’ve ever had, and I politely answered her inappropriately invasive questions as I privately fumed at my father for gossiping about my condition to an utter stranger. What business did this fellow customer have in knowing the details of my personal situation?
I was not offended by the conversation as much as I was at the betrayal of trust between my father and me. I’ve been in similar situations before with my mother who has a bad habit of dropping the “She’s a handicap” bomb to strangers when she thinks it necessary (it almost never is). By my father, I’ve been referred to as a “cripple” with an artillery of invented symptoms that are completely untrue.
Why my parents feel the need to churn the rumor mill about me and my condition, I have no idea. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism or it comforts them. In any case, they’re forgetting a fundamental truth: This is my story to tell, and they should respect it.
So whether you know someone with disability, depression, addiction, disease, or what have you, put yourself in her shoes before you let something slip. Is it really pertinent to mention? Because most of the time, the answer is no.
To our healing,