I am nothing if not brutally honest, and will always call it like I see it. Early on in my recovery when I had short hair and just looked different I approached any social interaction by insisting via text beforehand I was the same person. I was so touched by the kindness so many people showed me. They were respectful of my new reality; the changes to my voice and my mobility and my smaller window of being alert before needing to lay down. But they also treated me the same as before; they didn’t show uncomfortableness in talking to me. Throughout this whole journey I hate nothing more than being treated like I’m different. Yes I have new challenges. BUT I’M STILL ME. I cannot stand when people are scared to be around me, or think they need to alter their behavior towards me.
Unfortunately I notice this a lot now that I’m out in the world regularly. It’s mostly strangers but people that knew me before which is extremely hurtful. Many times, just taking an Uber or going to a ticket counter, people do not talk to me but instead to Kevin because he’s “normal.”
I understand how disability can make people uncomfortable. Here’s my blanket advice: even if it makes you totally feel awkward a simple acknowledgement to the person, just “hey how’s it going?” can be the difference in said person writing you off as rude or not. You really don’t have to go to great lengths but treat them like the real person they are, don’t act like they’re invisible. This makes me feel less important and is what’s hurtful.
Another piece of advice? Look for ways to be kind and helpful. The biggest thing I can think of is holding doors; as someone who has to navigate a mobility device it’s a lot to also try and open a door. That being said, offering help can come across as an implication that the person is not able to do things for themselves. I promise if I need assistance I’ll ask. But a big part of this recovery has been figuring out how to safely do thing for myself. I know it’s tricky. It’s very much appreciated when people are tuned into your struggles and not just looking out for themselves. The offer to help though can make the other person feel like there’s something wrong with them and implies they cannot do for themselves.