To The Park Ranger Who Questioned My Disability

I love camping. It one of my favorite things to do and I wasn’t about to let my stupid flesh prison keep me from doing it. So I organized a camping trip with 6 friends.

We went to Saddlehorn Campground, just a little bit out from Grandjunction, CO. I chose it because it had cemented paths and disability spots. It was absolutely beautiful as well.

We got there Friday late afternoon. Within 5 minutes getting there a man rode up on his bike.

“Why are you parked in a disability spot,” he accusatorily asked me (my official placard hanging in the window).

In immense pain from the 4-hour drive, I responded: “because I’m f**king disabled.”

He stood around and dumbly added, “but I’ve seen all y’all walking around.”

At this point I wasn’t alone in my anger, my friends chimed in. “Go away” “mind your own business” they yelled while I yelled, “just because I can walk tiny distances doesn’t mean I’m not disabled!”

He angrily, and obviously not convinced, jumped on his bike and rode off. I tried to not let it bother me, but it did. I was already gnawing at me when the park ranger came to our campsite.

“I need to see whatever proves you are disabled.” Obviously, my new friend had tattled on me. While she was saying this my disability placard hung visibly from the rearview mirror of the car.

My partner stood up and ushered her to look at the placard- literally right beside her. She walked away huffily as well. No apology for her hugely inappropriate behavior. Nothing.

I chose Saddlehorn for its disability friendly campsites and was harassed instead of finally easily able to enjoy camping. However, apparently, you have to be visibly disabled to not be harassed by other campers and staff.

Newsflash Saddlehorn: not all disabilities are visible. Not everyone who needs those spaces uses a wheelchair 100% of the time. Disability placards exist and aren’t easy to get without an actual condition that you need it for!

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Defining Yourself By Your Disability and Seeing Yourself As Sick

Defining Yourself As Your Disability

 This article makes a really good point I have  been thinking of lately. People should not demand someone with a disability to look at themselves in whatever way you see fit. Don’t complain that they talk about their illness too much. My disability does not define me, but it has shaped who I am. I have to deal with it every single day; it is a part of my life and I will talk about it if I want to.

Firstly, telling people to not “define themselves by their disability” is insulting because it implies that is how they do define themselves. For me and for most people this isn’t true.

Secondly, telling someone to not define themselves by their disability or to talk about their disability less is just ignorant. The people you see every day, the job you go to every single day- those things shape who you are. So who are you to say that a something I deal with every minute of every day should not influence my life or how I see myself?  When you hate your job you are probably going to talk about it a lot. In no way does that mean you are defined by that feeling, your crappy job, or how you deal with it. Talking about something that affects you so profoundly absolutely does not mean you are “defined” by it.

Seeing Yourself As Sick

While at the Dysautonomia International Conference a Dr. Paola Sandroni, a neurologist and expert in POTS, claimed that IV fluids should not be given to patients because it makes them think of themselves as sick*. Well, my question to Dr. Sandroni: how is wanting IV fluids to feel less sick going to make me suddenly see myself as more sick?! IV fluids make me feel less sick and more normal. Do you want to know what does make me think of myself as sick? Fainting. Pain. Brain fog. Dizziness. Nausea. Severe tachycardia. Vomiting. Chest pain. Our symptoms make us feel sick and think of ourselves as sick; treatments make us feel better and more normal. Stop demonizing our attempts to feel better.

I have also heard “friends,” family, and medical professionals go even as far as saying that you would feel better if you didn’t focus so much on being sick. Just stop talking about it and it will go away. In some cases, I am sure this is true, especially with patients who have both anxiety and POTS. Most of us do not. Just as many others, I don’t see myself as weak and sick. That is not why I talk about my illness. In fact, I see myself as strong, and a fighter for what I go through every day and keep on going. I recognize how hard it was to ask my friends and family for support. I recognize that I am doing everything I can to raise awareness to hopefully limit both the suffering of others and myself. If I need support to deal with this really tough thing then you can bet I will talk about it, and I’m stronger for that fact. You can’t silence me by demonizing the way I get support and deal with my illness.

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*All the other doctors at the Dysautonomia International Conference were wonderful and much more understanding of patient’s struggles. This was just one negative experience of an overall wonderful weekend.

Dating With A Chronic Illness: The 7 People You Will Meet

Dating with a chronic illness can complicate things. Here are the 7 types of people I’ve run into:

1. The One Who Ignores Your Illness

A lot of people have no idea how to interact with someone with a disability. While some people may attack the issues you face head on, these people avoid the topic at all costs. They rarely ask you how you are feeling, avoid topics of doctor’s appointments, and generally clam up when the topic turns to anything health related.

In my experience, these people do actually care if you are okay, but really don’t know how to go about talking about it. Unfortunately, not discussing a huge struggle in your life with your partner just doesn’t work. Education leads to understanding. If someone isn’t willing to talk about your illness it will be more difficult for them to understand problems that pop up. They lack the knowledge to understand why their sick partner had to cancel at the last minute, why they can’t eat the chocolates they gave them, or why those surprise concert tickets pose a problem.

MRW my friend tells me he proposed to the girl he's been dating for three weeks... - Imgur

2. The One Who Pities You

I love it when a partner rubs my head when I have a migraine, or is sympathetic to my venting. This sympathy can cross over to pity which gets old fast. Having a chronic illness is definitely a struggle but I don’t want to be constantly reminded “how strong I am” or asked “how I don’t give up.”  I want to be an equal in my relationships, and being constantly babied takes away from that.

Sympathy - Imgur

3. The Overly Helpful One

Yes, someone can be overly helpful. These partners go above and beyond when trying to help you manage your illness. They even help you with things you don’t ask for, and for a while everything is much easier. The problem with the overly helpful partner is that they almost always burn out. They put helping you with your illness over their own needs. And when they burn out you are the one who gets burned. Not addressing their personal needs leads to them resenting the person they are trying to help.

These breakups are often very abrupt and sudden. One day they are driving you to the hospital and sitting up with you all night and the next day they leave you alone in the hospital to go to a party saying it is all too hard. All of a sudden all the things they did for you (that you never asked for) are all your fault and you aren’t thankful enough for everything they do. Finding someone who can be honest about their needs and not stretching themselves too thin is extremely important.

When i realize the girl I started dating has low self-esteem.  - Imgur

4. The Expert

Calling this partner the expert is wholly inaccurate and really just my way of ridiculing them. People with chronic illnesses will run into “experts” on their condition all the time. They suggest ridiculous things you have already been checked for or try to tell you about an illness you have had for years and understand very well. I’ve even dated people who get upset with me for not following their suggestions, “have you been checked for gluten sensitivity again yet?” They think the only reason you aren’t cured is because you haven’t had their ideas yet. These people also see not following their ridiculous suggestions as not trying hard enough.

MRW my parents start asking too many questions about what I'm doing these days... - Imgur

5. The One Who Can’t Stop Asking If You Are Better Yet

Sometimes you can explain your illness a hundred times, define chronic repeatedly, and do your best to educate your partner and they will just never get it.  They will say things like “oh, you’re still sick” or “wow you still aren’t feeling better” or “when you are healthy we can go out.” I have a chronic illness! Chronic means long term; I am always sick!  They just don’t get it no matter what you do.

MRW my teacher yells at me for calling a girl dude because it's condescending towards my whole gender - Imgur

6. The One Who Can’t Handle It

This is the most common person I run into while dating and I must say it has left me frustrated. Sometimes my chronic illness comes up naturally in conversation, and other times I have to modify plans and it will come up. It is perfectly common to never hear from them again after this. For a while I thought I was paranoid and that it has nothing to do with my illness or that people just thought I was being flaky. However, I have had a few people outright tell me they aren’t okay with dating someone with a chronic illness.

For example, on one online date, within fifteen minutes, I had my date say “But she had Crohn’s disease and I am sure as hell not going to put up with that bullshit.” I walked away. What an insensitive jerk.

Trying to find a boyfriend before Valentine's Day - Imgur

7. The One Who Supports You

I’ve found finding people who support you through your illness to be incredibly rare and even more so in dating. The best partners treat the chronic illness as something you are fighting together, not a negative personality trait that is your fault. Remember that you always deserve someone who supports you!

MRW I find a profile on a dating website that mentions imgur - Imgur