I’ve heard this phrase time and time again. It almost always surfaces when strangers see me walking with my crutches, either when they pass me on the sidewalk or catch me in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, or whatever the setting may be. While the actual sentiment may sound nice at first, ultimately it feels like a punch in the stomach. I wish it didn’t; trust me. I’ve lived this way for long enough that it shouldn’t bother me. I should take the statement at face value and walk away, but it’s not that easy. At least, for me it’s not. Of course, I take into account that these folks have never met me and don’t know any better. They probably think I injured myself in some way, and that the crutches are temporary…that one of these days I’ll get better and be rid of the crutches. The thing is, though, is that technically I won’t “get better,” and the reason is not only because I don’t see myself getting off the crutches any time soon, but also because I never ever thought of myself as being sick or injured.
I’ve always considered my disability to be a neurological condition. A condition of which there is no cure, but a condition nonetheless. I never considered my disability to be an illness, but to me that’s what the statement “I hope you get better” implies: that soon I’m going to recover and I won’t need to walk with crutches. Unfortunately I don’t think walking without crutches will be my reality. So while the person telling me these words may mean well, and while I say thank you, I’m not left with a good feeling deep down inside. These bad feelings don’t last too long, I assure you, but they still come up. There can’t be a way to stop them completely. At the end of the day, I am only human. If I could make any suggestions to these strangers or passerby, I would lead with this anecdote:
One day I was walking down a busy sidewalk, minding my own business and most likely daydreaming, when one stranger called out to me, “You go girl,” which I took as something positive. This stranger was encouraging and kind, and definitely not patronizing. Or perhaps I was just deluded by the beautiful weather that day and thus was already in a good mood, so I smiled. Whatever. What matters is that this stranger brightened my day. Be more like that stranger.