At my exercise class the other day, we were talking about different things we do so the public won't "get the wrong idea." One lady was saying she had read that you should carry a cane so the neighbors don't think you're drunk, and keep a wheelchair in the garage so you can look at it and let it know that you are NEVER going to use it. I like the wheelchair part, but I don't feel like I should have to explain myself to anybody. I told her that I wanted to get one of those root beer bottles and put it in a paper bag to carry around with me and she laughed so hard and enjoyed it so much that she brought me a root beer bottle the next exercise class. And I have every intention of using it. I'm having daydreams of mowing the lawn with it in my hand... driving down the road with it, waving to police officers... going to the lady's house that gave it to me and slurring out, "you ready to go exercise, baby?"
When I was newly diagnosed, I carried a cane and wore my MS shirts all the time so people would know what was wrong with me. I felt like I had to explain myself to the public so they "wouldn't get the wrong idea." I agreed when people told me that I have MS, it doesn't have me. That things could be worse, which I totally agree with, but am tired of hearing. I bit my tongue when people referred to me as "sick" even though it will bring out the evil in me faster than anything else. I was patient explaining all things MS to anyone who would ask. Somewhere along the line I got over my need to explain and the shame in being what I am, and now there is hell to pay!
I enjoy saying, "MS has me" as an answer to what is wrong with me. I am thinking of getting a T shirt that says that for the upcoming MS walk. I correct anyone who has the nerve to refer to me as "sick." I let them know that I am not sick. I have a disease, but I am not sick in the sense that one thinks of sick. I will not carry a cane for any one's benefit. It makes people feel better about themselves if they get the wrong impression and, if nothing else, I am doing the public a service by making them feel better about themselves. I WILL NOT wear my MS shirts anymore because I don't want to give the answer away to those who are uncouth enough to stare at me and try to figure out what is wrong with me. Let them puzzle over it. It's not my problem whether they ever figure it out. Maybe they should approach me with that old stock question, "Whad ya do to yer leg?" Then I will explain that I have MS and watch as their eyes glaze over when they realize that it is a boring answer to the $64,000 question.
Somewhere along the line, you gotta stop worrying about what others' think of you and just worry about what you think of you. And I think I need to start carrying around my root beer bottle.
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