[Image description: Eight speech bubbles of different shapes and sizes against a grey background. Image source]
I have had to deal with a lot of questions and comments from others that are sometimes inconsiderate–even though they are well-intended. Here are some of the things I dislike hearing as a disabled person:
There’s nothing wrong with you/You’re just like everyone else.
Are you sure about that? Do you not see my walker/wheelchair? It sticks out like a sore thumb, let me tell you.
On a more serious note, I think I understand where people are coming from when they say this. They mean to tell me they treat/see me no different because of my disability. Or that my disability doesn’t make me any different from them. I appreciate that; I really do. But to a point.
The fact is, I am disabled and that does make me different. There’s no denying it: my disability is as visible as the clothes I wear. Sometimes I have to be treated differently to make sure that my needs are met and I can participate in an event/activity along with everyone else, and there’s nothing wrong with that. When someone says the above statement to me, it bothers me because it makes me feel like they’re trying to act as if my disability doesn’t exist. When people are in this mindset (at least from my experience), they tend to not take my limitations into consideration and expect me to go along with the flow when it’s just not possible for me to do so. All this does is lead to feelings of frustration and misunderstanding for me. Just because you choose not to see my disability, that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
You have to accept it [my disability].
People usually say this to me after I have a heart-to-heart with them about my disability struggles, namely, struggling with not being able to walk independently and feeling defeated and unable to move forward because my limitations seemed so overwhelming. It wasn’t until I did some serious reflecting that I realized why it was so upsetting.
Firstly, nobody would tell me what acceptance actually entailed, so I had no idea how to go about doing it. It was extremely frustrating to get this message over and over with no idea what it actually meant. Once I defined it on my own terms (acceptance doesn’t mean I have to happy about my disability), I was much more at peace with myself. However, people still don’t think I have accepted my disability even today, so I still have to hear this sometimes. And you know what’s confusing? Some of the same people have said both this statement and the one above it to me. Talk about mixed messages!
You are here to teach people to be thankful.
You know, people live their entire lives trying to figure out what their life’s purpose is. I’m so happy you have that figured out for me…
No, but seriously, my life’s purpose is for me to decide and me only—as it’s my life. It’s great that you want to take the lesson of gratefulness from my life, but please, keep that to yourself because I really don’t appreciate hearing that. I find it extremely disrespectful. Also, I’ve learned that true gratefulness does not come from comparing yourself to others, rather, it comes from truly appreciating everything you have. Comparing yourself to others also makes you realize what they have that you don’t, and I assure you that there’s more to me than my disability—if that’s making you grateful. If you got to know me beyond a superficial level, you’d know that.
Hopefully you will be cured through God’s will.
I translated this statement from Arabic. I wanted to put a way that captures the meaning, so it’s not word-for-word. Basically, it is the Arabic equivalent of wishing for my curing.
For my journey to acceptance, I had to choose between wanting to be cured and not wanting to be cured because I couldn’t find peace in the middle of these ideas. I chose the latter, and after I did, I found it so much easier to accept my body’s limitations and love myself for who I was. So, the main reason why I find this statement to be problematic is because people are assuming that I want to be cured. They say this without taking my desires or feelings into account, and that’s why it bothers me. As of right now, I do not want to be cured. Why? Well, because I believe God does everything for a reason, and that is reiterated in my religious beliefs as well. I don’t believe I need to be cured because this is God’s choice for my life. A better alternative to this statement would be to ask: Can I pray for you to be cured? This question gives me a chance to choose of what I want instead of the other person assuming what my wants are.
Everyone has a disability.
Everyone has challenges. But that doesn’t mean you can equate your challenges with mine, nor can I equate my challenges with yours. Having a disability is a highly unique experience, and you don’t get to take that away from me just because you want to try to relate to me. Trust me, if everyone had a disability, the world would be a very different place.
Pray for me.
Yes, a demand. Not even a request. I don’t mind when it’s a sincere request with something attached to it (ex. can you pray for me to pass my exams), but this statement bothers me. I think it comes from people’s beliefs that I am more “pure” and closer to God because of my disability. I don’t know if I am, to be completely honest. I think only God is the judge of that–not anyone else. But I certainly do not feel as if I am “more” qualified to pray for others in the way people think I am. I feel as if others perceive me to be of angelic status or something similar, but I feel like a normal person who worships God and asks for my needs to fulfilled.
You’re a blessing.
I feel like most people say this only because of my disability. Again, putting me at angelic status or something similar. And because I’ve never heard anyone else say this directly to another person, I’m inclined to believe that it’s because of my disability.
I don’t feel blessed. I just feel like me. I don’t know why my disability makes me special, or rather, why my disability seems to be the only thing that people point out that makes me special. What about my loyalty to those I love? Or my love of writing? Or my ability to listen? Or my compassion for others? Better yet, isn’t every person a blessing? I shouldn’t be the only one getting that kind of recognition.
Are there things that you don’t like to hear from other people? Let me know in the comments!