I’m Shifting Away From an Either-or Mindset

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by Matt Lafleur |

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A few mornings ago, I groggily looked up and saw my reflection in the mirror. Because my vanity is wheelchair-accessible, I can see myself when I’m brushing my teeth and fixing my hair.

I see the world through two black holes. My dark brown eyes are almost completely black, so it’s impossible to tell where my iris ends and my pupil begins. Growing up, I often tried unsuccessfully to distinguish between the parts.

Although the face in the mirror is as familiar as my brown-black eyes, the way I see myself changes constantly.

Do I want to improve physically, or should I accept my health status, wheelchair and all? Is it OK to dream about a future in which I’m unencumbered by Friedreich’s ataxia? Or, should I prioritize the present and try to lead a great life, regardless of disability?

Both options feel like betrayals.

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A podcast gets me thinking

Later that morning, I listened to an episode of the “Hidden Brain” podcast called “Both Things Can Be True.” Host Shankar Vedantam explained that humans tend to view the world in black and white, leaving little room for shades of gray.

According to Vedantam: “In so many ways, across so many domains, we are pulled toward either-or thinking. Are the people around us friends or foes, sinners or saints, superheroes or supervillains? What are we to make of the neighbor who brings us soup when we are sick but also shares vile opinions on social media, the supportive friend who’s a bully at work, the hated politician who passes a law that we like?”

I nodded along as I listened. Other people have an either-or mindset, not me. I congratulated myself on my wisdom.

At the time, I didn’t realize my own thoughts lacked nuance.

My trainer sparks a revelation

That afternoon, during a personal training session at Unique Fitness, I complained to my coach, Damon Vincent, that I didn’t know if I should be unhappy with my situation. Should I try to push my limits and continuously hunger for new treatments or a cure? Or, should I focus on living a fulfilling life despite my permanent disability?

Damon’s response echoed the podcast episode and gave me an epiphany.

“Why not both?”

Maybe I can yearn for a cure and be content with my situation simultaneously. These options aren’t necessarily opposites — both can be true.

I reflected on this as my bedtime approached. I brushed my teeth, tired after my training session. Before I turned off the light, I glanced up at my reflection and wondered if the guy in the mirror is on a tireless quest to vanquish FA or make the most of living with it.

Maybe I am dynamic enough for both perspectives to be true. Like my iris and my pupil, I can’t always tell where one ends and the other begins.


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.The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.


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