If you’ve read my About Me page, you’ll know that Heart Failure is not my only health problem. It’s my worst, as in it’s the only one that threatens my life, but various other bits of me have also decided to go on strike; my spine, my knees, my elbows, my ankles, my hips, my stomach, and recently, my gall bladder.
The one thing they all have in common is they’re invisible. Save for my crutches, which of course could just be props I don’t actually need, there is no way to physically see the numerous things that have such impact on my life. Mr W is the same. On the outside, we look like a young(ish!) couple, who’s only visible problem is being overweight. This leads to judgements; tutting, filthy looks, staring & shaking of heads when we use anything designated for disabled people. I know, everybody knows someone who we’ve decided is “faking”, and I’m not saying we’re all wrong (hell, some of you may have met my ex husband, and you’re definitely right in his case). But let me present you with an alternative.
Today I was using the disabled toilet in a pub when the door handle rattled signalling that someone was waiting. Being considerate, I tried to hurry to finish, but my tummy wasn’t playing nice, and it took a couple of minutes. By the time I came out there was only a middle aged lady outside, obviously waiting for someone. This lady saw an overweight woman coming out of a disabled toilet in an “all you can eat carvery” type pub, and made a judgement. It was written all over her face, it’s a look I’m all too familiar with, and once the judgement has been made then all the crutches in the world won’t change it.
Whenever I see that look part of me wants to explain. Part of me wanted to tell this lady I hadn’t eaten, just nipped in because my IBS was playing up, and I’m on water tablets, and my legs don’t bend well, and the myriad other reasons why using the normal ladies toilets isn’t an option for me.
But a bigger part of me knows I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to justify my right to use a facility I need. But it’s human nature, we make snap judgements every second of the day. Most of these are necessary, we have to, else life would grind to a halt. But some of them, like the one the lady made in the pub today, are choices. We can choose to judge things at face value, or we can choose to reason that a snapshot is not the whole picture, and to look closer.
Look closer at that apparently healthy man and you might see that he holds his arm a funny way, or that he has medical patches on. Look closer at that young woman rushing to the toilet & she might have a lump where some medical equipment sits under her clothes. Look closer still, into the eyes of a someone apparently carefree & laughing, and maybe you’ll see the deep pain that they’re ignoring in order to not worry their family.
That guy you saw mowing the lawn, he could be paying for that for two days, overdosing on drugs because there’s no other way to get it done and the neighbours (sometimes the same ones that judge him for doing it) will complain to the landlord if it gets scruffy. Living life with chronic illness means sacrificing future wellness to get through today, the Spoon Theory explains this better than anything else I’ve seen.
In short, lovely reader, I’m asking you to think. To ask yourself if you really see the whole picture, and if the answer is no, just please, look closer.
Unless its my ex, in which case, just report the bastard.