Many people aren’t aware of how sensitive people with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) can be about using a mobility aid. I struggle with feeling like a “minority” in society by standing out and looking different, so when people throw out negative words and actions, I feel awful about myself.
Daily life in a major city includes more than my fair share of comments, weird stares, and reactions when I’m using a rollator or wheelchair because of my invisible disability. Most of the time, going out in public smacks me with unbearable anxieties because I never know what harsh judgments lurk around each corner.
A few weeks ago, a situation left me speechless and questioning why people are so broken. I really wish they would approach me with my feelings and well-being in mind.
While walking home, I came upon two young women. Their two dogs stood in the middle of the sidewalk leading to my apartment, so I politely said “excuse me” to make my way through. One woman tightly grabbed her dog and said to it, “It will be OK, baby.” Then, she turned to her friend and said, “So sorry you had to see that. My dog gets freaked out when they see people in wheelchairs or with walkers.”
I sarcastically yelled, “I am so sorry your dog’s feelings are more important than a human being’s!” It took everything in me to stay strong and stick up for myself. I could not believe this woman’s insensitive, callous judgment.
As I mentioned in a previous column, the reality of FA can be difficult for others to fully realize. They don’t always believe what they cannot see, which includes just how intensely difficult it is to deal with an invisible disease. I’ve grown to accept that not everyone will understand, yet every once in a while, instances like this hurt my pride.
I could have been having a bad morning with falls and pain in my limbs, but the woman would not have known, or maybe she wouldn’t have
cared to know. I wish she knew the importance of being kind at all times, especially when encountering someone with a disability.
When I came across that woman, I either could have let her rude comment bring me down, or I could have moved forward and come out of the situation stronger.
I chose to come out stronger because I remembered that some people will never be sympathetic. No matter how much you explain the symptoms of FA, some people won’t try to understand or believe that it is true. It’s important to remember that what I go through every day is a real, mighty struggle. The good people out there are who get me through.
I learned from this woman’s cruelty. Now I have thicker skin and and know that I deserve better.
Friedreich’s Ataxia News 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 another 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.