So when I head straight toward the bushes at the entrance to my building it isn’t surprising.
Bushes are a trigger in picturing my first (and only) experience as a new MSer in an MS support group. Recommended by my neurologist, the group experience was meant to help me cope with the way-past-due-diagnosis of my disease.
Instead, it freaked me out.
Walkers, wheelchairs, canes, crutches – and me, invisibly disabled, in high heels looking at a future unable to wear them.
Big time downer.
Especially when a guy lost his balance and landed on his butt in a bush. That he laughed it off was horrifying.
I understand, now, the reason he laughed. Not only is laughing at the faux pas around the commonplace common, but situations that elicit that kind of response are also all too common.
The reality he must’ve experienced then is one I now share. Today I laugh, too. Because it’s truly comical at times and also because laughter is socially reassuring. “It’s alright, folks. I’m alright. Nothing to see here, move along.”
Knock wood, I’ve yet to experience anything dire in my navigational mistakes. Embarrassment to be impaired in public is what hurts. Most of us don’t know what to do in a situation like that. I put lots of effort into looking unimpaired, but when I catch sight of myself in a shop mirror, the reality of how I walk, for example, isn’t normal at all.
When I use an assistive device, a rollator in my case, parents scold their children for staring. I’ve yet to hear mommy or daddy use the opportunity as a teaching moment to talk about disability; rather it’s “don’t stare” before hurrying away. No wonder society hasn’t made much progress in accepting the disabled community who, except to children, remain largely invisible.
Recently, Disability.gov blogged an article about steps to take when being newly disabled.
It’s worth a read, especially if you’re not.
Specializing in couples work, Kathe Skinner is a Colorado Marriage & Family Therapist and Relationship Specialist. She works especially those couples where invisible disability is present. For over 10 years, she and husband, David, have been Certified Instructors for Interpersonal Communication Programs . Find the schedule for their next Couple Communication Workshop at http://www.beingheardnow.com© 2014 Being Heard
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