Don’t pity me, I’m disabled!!

A doctor’s waiting room is a fascinating place. There’s the rather robust man sitting talking to his friend(I hope) about the ultrasound he’s just had, apparently it’s his fifth one but try as they might doctors cannot get to the bottom of his bowel issues(pun intended).

Then there’s the worried Nana with her grandson. He’s been kicked in the head playing football (Australian rules not soccer) and is there to make sure he hasn’t done himself a permanent injury. Nana is lecturing him on how many injuries his beloved football has caused him, how worried she is and trying to engage other patients nearby to join in on her pleas for him to stop. The other patients are pointedly avoiding her gaze.

There are the two little girls for whom the waiting room is their stage. They skip about, dance and sing whatever comes into their heads while their mother, tired of trying to quieten them resigns herself to reading the ancient copy of Women’s Day magazine she has just picked up.

Beneath it all is the soundtrack of life; the surgery phone constantly ringing and being answered, the tinkle of the bell on the door as people go in and out, the rumble of the cars travelling up and down the street and the occasional warbling of the magpie nesting in the tree that shades the window.

In the midst of it all this sits a young woman. She’s in her late 20s, short and slightly odd looking. She’s not famous but she’s sure everyone is fascinated by her every move. They are not. They have their own lives. Really? Then why does she feel like the poster child for-people practising to be good humans?!

There is only one thing more annoying than being patronised and that’s being pitied. If you stood a physically disabled person next to a “normal” person chances are that if pity was to be apportioned it would be placed squarely on the person with the disability. It wouldn’t matter if he or she was smiling broadly and wearing the latest winter fashions or if the person standing next to them was homeless, unemployed or the victim of domestic abuse, the assumption would be made based on looks alone. (for the record, I am in no way suggesting that the clothes one wears or a person’s employment status etc. makes one better or worse than their peers, these were just the first things that sprang to mind

This week I have had a spate of people telling me how difficult and tragic my life is and how brave I am for staying positive. Why I hear you ask? Because I have been accepted to receive a Cochlear implant in my left ear. This is a good thing, it will give me hearing in that ear for the first time in 16 years. It’s a long process and involves surgery (very minor) and a year’s worth of training to learn to hear with the device. This seems like a lot but in the scheme of things it isn’t.

I am quite excited about this but upon hearing that surgery is required (it’s an implant for goodness sake!) all I keep hearing is; “oh poor you, that’s all you need especially with your history”. I’m sorry, what?! This comes without any mention of any other aspect of my life or health but because I have other unrelated issues suddenly it’s a tragedy.

This is not the first time something in my life has been blown spectacularly out of proportion. I once had $20 stolen from my purse. It was news so word got around. As with most gossip people were mildly interested but one person was horrified, “didn’t they know who they were stealing from? They asked, “surely they knew you were disabled “. Does that make a difference? Call me crazy but I thought $20 had the same value regardless of who was holding it. Apparently not.

I take umbrage with this. This suggests that a person with a disability is a victim. It suggests that being accepted into “normal” society, doing things “normal” people do, or having friends without a disability is somehow a great privilege for which we should be grateful. Is it any wonder that a person with a disability (myself included) could suffer from confidence issues or feelings of inferiority?

I’m here to tell you dear reader that this life is not all doom and gloom. How many times have you driven around and around and around a shopping centre car park in search of a bay close to the door? We get one. There may not be many of them but they are conveniently located and often sheltered from the elements. Then there is boarding an aeroplane. If you have a disability you get to board first. No more crush to get to your seat and no waiting in line at the gate. Woo hoo!

There are even perks to my deafness. We’ve all heard of selective hearing, well, a while ago the neighbours were having a very raucous party. By midnight the party was still in full swing and showing no sign of wrapping up. No matter, I just popped out my hearing aid and hey presto it was quiet. This is also handy when you have a snoring bed buddy or a boring travelling companion.

There is also the time we went to the Cadbury chocolate factory in Claremont, Tasmania for a tour. It requires a lot of walking, which at the time I was unable to do, so I did it in a wheelchair. The tour takes you all through the factory but because I was in a chair the whole group had to take a different route. This meant we were privileged enough to see parts of the factory not normally open to the public. It also earned me a round of applause AND extra chocolate.

You have got to love that!



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