Friday, July 27, 2007

Discomfort at first sight

Ruth, from Wheelie Catholic and A Different Light, wrote D is for Discomfort - a post with her thoughts on an observation that my aide made on our recent trip to Costa Rica. My aide Ryan noticed people's initial response of discomfort to meeting me and my energy put into making them feel comfortable.

Ruth relates to my experiences. And as a person with an acquired impairment, I am guessing that she notices a huge difference in the "before" and "after" first encounters with people.

I have grown up with cerebral palsy, and I am used to people staring at me from a distance, people looking away from me as if they might "catch" what I have, people talking to my friends or family as if I'm not there, and people looking at me with pity and sadness. Even though I am used to it, it still makes me angry, and I get tired of all the energy I have to put into "proving" that I am a real person. Still, I try not to let it get to me.

Ruth has some good suggestions. If you are uncomfortable with people who look different than you, I hope you'll check out Ruth's post. I hope you'll find it helpful.


Ruth said...

Thanks for the link David! One of my dear friends who has been disabled since birth suggested I write more about this topic - and when I saw what Ryan said to you, I thought this was a good time to do it . And you're right about me noticing a huge difference in my first encounters of the close kind!

Zephyr said...

Hmmmm. I have an acquired disability, but have had it since I was 6. I'm actually so used to the stares that I'm completely unfazed by them. People don't treat me strangely other than that, though, I guess it's because I just use canes, and I'm also very assertive and socially quite forward. But even when I rode a scooter I didn't get hassled, I wonder what the difference was? I should write a post about it.

David said...

Interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Like you both, I am used to how people treat me on first encounters. My aide was the one who noticed the difference between how people first interact with him and with me.

Once we get to know each other, I think person's awkwardness goes away. Or, we don't continue a relationship.

It is interesting to think what it is that really makes people uncomfortable with someone that they don't yet know - an assistive device (cane or wheelchair or hearing aid or guide dog), seeing bodily functions like drooling or a urinary bag or crossed eyes, or their own uncomfortableness/fear of their personal vulnerabilities.