Monday, January 31, 2011

On mocking people with disabilities...

I dislike when people make fun of people that have disabilities. Mocking a person for things they can't control makes you so fucking cool, right? I bet you feel so good inside making your funny little joke as you walk by laughing, thinking yourself so superior to whomever your having a good laugh at.

When I was 5, I was in a car accident that nearly killed me. Should have killed me according to paramedics, doctors, nurses and such. I couldn't walk right away when I finally got out of the hospital so I had to be in a wheel chair for a while. I hated the wheel chair. I hated how people stared, pointed, laughed, scowled, judged. People who wouldn't have given me a second look otherwise.

Outwardly, I looked fine. They couldn't see my leg that had been run over by a car driven by the drunk driver that nearly took my life and left me with issues I still deal with today, twenty years later. They couldn't see the leg that was fucked up, that still has an 11 in scar running down the length of it from where it was stapled because my leg had been crushed and split open. Outwardly, I didn't seem to need to be in a wheel chair.

I didn't like going places because that meant people would stare at me. People would point. I would hear people speculating about what could be wrong with me. I would see people scowling at me and then at my parents. I would see people judging me, a small child, just because something was wrong with me. I would see people laughing at me like it were funny; clearly I never got the joke.

My boyfriend has had two strokes. He's 25 years old. He had his first one when he was 19. The doctors and neurologists who have dealt with him over the years have always been puzzled about what caused both of these strokes. He's gone through so many tests only for them to shrug and say they can't figure out what the cause is because he's fine, healthy, dandy.

His first stroke, he lost his peripheral vision.

His second stroke, he lost a lot of the feeling in the left side of his body.

The loss of feeling on his left side was so difficult. He had to get used to using his left hand for things without being able to feel what he was doing with it. I remember one time I accidentally shut his hand in a door and then freaked out because I had hurt his hand. I won't ever forget how sad he looked when he reminded me that it was fine, he couldn't feel it anyway. Other times, he would be in the kitchen trying to hold a glass with one hand and using the other to pour something from a pitcher into the glass. If he held the glass with the left hand, he might drop it and if he poured with the left hand, he had issues trying to get it in the glass. I remember so many times he ended up spilling water or something else all over the place because he couldn't feel what he was doing. It hurt so bad seeing him get angry at himself because he was having trouble doing things he'd formerly been able to do with no problem at all. He'd hug me and be sad because he could only feel me with his right arm and hand. His doctors told him the feeling might gradually return partially if he did exercises with stress balls and other things. So, he did. I never laughed at him any time he dropped something or spilled something. I never got impatient because he did some things slower because he had to focus harder without being able to really feel what he was doing. I was patient, I hugged him when he was upset or sad and I encouraged him to do the exercises and tried to be optimistic and encouraging that he would get some of the feeling back.

Something that pissed me off at first were some of his friends found it amusing that they could punch him in the left arm or thigh and he wouldn't feel it. This was a couple years ago so I get that they were just young and immature but that doesn't excuse being insensitive. I get the curiosity of doing it just to test it and see. He had me apply pressure or punch him tons of times to see if he could feel anything. I wasn't doing it for my own amusement, though. I didn't find it amusing that he couldn't feel anything. Even now, sometimes he'll do something and someone will make a comment about how slow he's doing it or how it would go faster if he would use both hands. I always feel defensive about it because he does the best he can and I hate when people pick on him for something he can't control. Especially when it's someone he knows and who knows about his problem.

On a quick plus side, he has regained some of the feeling. It likely won't ever be back to full strength again but he can feel a little bit which is better than nothing. The only downside to that is he gets these crazy sharp pains a lot of the time that last for hours. He rarely ever complains, though. He just deals with it and goes on. Sometimes, I wish I could ignore the comments he gets the way he does.

I always feel a need to defend people who have a disability when they're being picked on or laughed at. (Actually, it's not just people with disabilities I feel the need to stand up for but since that's what we're talking about here, I'll leave it at that.) I just don't understand what's funny about laughing at someone in a wheelchair or someone with autism or someone who's wearing an eye patch or someone who's only got one arm or.... the list could go on forever. Does it really make you feel better about yourself to look down on and laugh at someone else? I think most people who do that are possibly just miserable/unhappy on the inside. I know with some people, they're just insensitive assholes who deserve a good bitch slap.

It reminds me of when I lived in CA almost 2 years ago and was working a job where the deaf guy came up there and needed extra assistance ordering. How no one except for me and two other people liked dealing with him. All you had to do was write notes back and forth with him which took a couple extra minutes than dealing with a customer who could just tell you what they wanted. Yet so many of my co-workers didn't want to be "bothered" by him and treated him rudely. Acted as if he were a burden and made fun of him. I got so mad so many times over that and then I got sad when they guy stopped coming up there. I didn't blame him one bit but it made me sad for him and angry at all the assholes I worked with for being such pricks.

I never stare at people in wheelchairs. I don't point, laugh, make jokes about or any shitty thing like that. I don't stare at people hobbling along on crutches. I don't stare or point at people who look outwardly different. I don't see a person with one arm and go out of my way to avoid walking near them. I don't treat people with disabilities like they're different in some weird or wrong way. There's no reason to. None. At all. I learned that at a very young age and I learned that from being the person people treated differently, cruelly, rudely. I never said anything but I felt like something was wrong with me. I blamed myself for not being strong enough to walk, not being able to not be in a wheelchair. I was angry at everyone I caught looking at me the wrong way, pointing, laughing, etc. I was also angry at myself for not being able to do anything about it.

I know now that it was wrong to be mad at myself. I didn't know that then. At that age, it would have been impossible to understand the simple fact that some people are just fucking insensitive, judgmental assholes.

So, next time you feel a need to stare someone down and laugh at them for something; stop and think about why you feel a need to do that. And then, don't do it.

Happy Monday.


DCHY said...

Someone we both know by the name of NV told me to come over and check you out. You'll like my blog because I'm deaf. I liked how you treated a deaf customer with respect and dignity.

Sherri said...

I have MS... some days I'm fine... other days not so fine.

Some days I walk almost normally, other days I walk like a drunk chicken.

I have many invisible symptoms.

I remember a football game..(my ol man is a coach) was really cold outside. My walking was at it's worst... As I walked down the bleacher stairs headed to the bathroom, people were staring, whispering, snickering... someone even intentionally cut out in front of in an attempt to mess me up going down the stairs.

Once I finally made it to the restroom, I closed myself in a stall and sat there for about 20 minutes crying.

This was a few months ago, right after my diagnosis. I had not yet wrapped my mind around it and didn't have the inner strength to face these people.

I hope that when this happens to me again I will. I hope that I will be able to come back at them with some witty, sarcastic remark that makes them feel sh**ty ... I hope that I can make them feel shame for behaving in such a way...

Thank you for posting this. It's important that people know that their jokes hurt, even when those of us with disabilities laugh at ourselves, or laugh with the person making the jokes... it still hurts us deep inside....

Happy Girl 25 said...

Well said! Making fun of someone is low and just not necessary.

Anonymous said...

thankyou, thankyou, thankyou! i totally agree with you! i have a manager at work who constantly mocks a disabled customer when she comes to the store. the manager does it every-bloody-time! i am thinking of putting in a complaint about the manager because i am offended by their behaviour and think she is being discriminative. i want to thankyou for giving me a little more courage to do it :)