Here’s one of the problems with my medical condition -- most people don’t know I have one. On the outside, I look okay. There’s nothing visibly wrong with me. There’s no walking stick, no walker, and no wheelchair. There’s no cane, no crutch, and no cast. Thankfully.
Which means that most people look at me and assume I can walk across the street at a rather quick pace. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.
A few months ago, my husband and I were crossing the street to our local Coffee Bean. It wasn’t one of my better days. I could have stayed home and waited for him to bring home our beverages. Instead, I pushed myself to walk a little bit. Part of our walk requires us to use a marked crosswalk to walk across a major street. That section has a very slight incline. For most people, it’s not a problem. For me, on this particular day, that slight incline felt like a steep incline.
I did my best to walk, and the traffic light was still green, but I certainly was struggling to make it across. We were walking which meant cars were waiting to make a right-hand turn. The driver of the first car waiting to turn looked right at me and muttered, “Come on, come on, come on.”
I tried to laugh it off; teasing my husband that perhaps she was really in a rush to get home and use the restroom. Or maybe she was hurrying to the hospital down the street to witness the birth of her first grandchild. I don’t know the circumstances involved in her bad mood. And I’m fairly certain that I’ve thought more about her and that one instance than she’s thought about me.
But here’s the lesson I would hope to pass on to all my readers: Please, exercise patience when interacting with those around you. Don’t be so quick to judge someone who displays a disabled placard from their rearview mirror and don’t criticize the person who is slowly crossing the street for no apparent reason. There are reasons, we just don’t know them all. I’m not the only one with an “invisible disability.”
Truthfully, I didn’t learn this lesson until it directly affected me, until I became one of the “disabled.” (And I use the quotation marks because still, the word doesn’t seem like the correct word for me.) So while you may not see it, know that I, and others like me, do our best to persevere through the pain. And, sometimes it’s at a slow and steady pace.