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Hiding from Our Disabled

Hiding from Our Disabled

Do you walk on eggshells around people with chronic illness or disabilities? If so, you are not alone.

Maybe you’re a little uncomfortable — you don’t know quite what to say and don’t want to stick your foot in your mouth. You want to ask questions but don’t want to pry. In our “politically correct” world, eggshells are all over the place.

Most literature about chronic illness informs us that stress can aggravate symptoms and cause relapses, and a lot of us can attest to that fact. Avoiding undue stress is a positive thing. However, we cannot divorce ourselves from planet earth and the reality of every day life. Taking the concept of avoiding stress too far, especially within the family, can result in pent-up resentment by all concerned.

Most people who have a chronic illness or disability are functioning members of society and integral members of family life. Rather than avoiding that person or avoiding the problem altogether, why not approach them as you would anybody else?

Adults with chronic illness or disabilities want… and need… to be included in important issues, even potentially negative ones. Family and friends, or even co-workers who overprotect can end up causing more harm than good, adding to their own stress levels in the process. It is a vicious cycle that raises tensions and prevents functional problem solving. Good intentions don’t always equal good outcome. Life is fraught with highs and lows and it is folly to try to protect someone from life itself.

Perhaps you are the one with a chronic illness or disability, going out of your way to paint a rosy picture and keep your problems to yourself. We all want to put our best foot forward and, unquestionably, that’s as it should be. But taken to the extreme, it sends the wrong message and can lead to misunderstandings and unexpressed anger. Clearing the air about problems as they arise will ease tension in the long run.

Eggshells be damned. No more hiding. Rather than allowing chronic illness or disability come between you, make a pact to face it honestly and speak freely. Empowerment is gained through being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. We’re all just people.

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a regular contributor to Care2.com’s Reform Health Policy blog in Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo.

Read more: Blogs, Conditions, Family, Health, Living with MS, Multiple Sclerosis

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Ann Pietrangelo

Ann Pietrangelo is the author of No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis and Catch That Look: Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. She is a freelance writer and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

84 comments

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6:34AM PDT on Oct 23, 2012

I'm glad for these discussions if only to let those without disability issues read what its like for those with them in current society.

6:49PM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

Thanx.

1:12PM PDT on Apr 24, 2011

Very good article and comments--I am in same situation as Nicki R.--am thankful that I have a few good friends left, but so many left when my eye condition worsened. All you Care2 members and readers, keep up the good work on behalf of us disabled people.

6:46AM PDT on Apr 7, 2011

Thanks for the article.

7:58PM PDT on Sep 17, 2010

Larry Grazier spoke a truth, which, although very hard to hear, needed to be said. Having taken care of my parents for the last 13 years of their life, I can testify, unfortunately, that what he said is absolutely true - except it is not only the young, healthy people who are guilty of this. Common decency and respect for others, along with propriety, seem to have become anachronisms. We ought to be ashamed.

11:25AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

living with a disability is hard. very hard sometimes. living with the prejudice is hell. it is a punishment for being disabled

8:27AM PDT on Sep 8, 2010

thanks

7:36PM PDT on May 18, 2010

If someone is "walking on eggshells" around a disabled person it's about THEM, their need to be comfortable. I think it's also about them not wanting to acknowledge your condition at all, because if they do, you might actually talk about it, and they don't want that. I have been chronically ill/disabled for years and went from having a large circle of friends (or so I thought) pre-disability, to now feeling like I must have leprosy, because people seem to shun me. I've vascillated between protecting people's sensitivities by pretending things aren't as bad as they are to being honest. Neither has worked. I have found very little understanding or compassion from most folks, and have even been dumped by close friends. My experience seems to be that either my condition makes people so uncomfortable they can't handle it or they simply don't carre. They're certainly not offering to help or even provide simple companionship. Sad, but true.

2:40PM PDT on May 18, 2010

I am a disabled person and believe me there are more people out there that don't care if your disabled or not. In the public i've found out that the people now care less for others than ever before. Don't think so? Try being a person on a cane and getting on a full bus. Would you give up your seat to help out a diabled person? Waiting in line at the store would you let a disabled person go first?
The new generation cares less about anything except themselves. Don't believe me? Try being a disabled person and looking for a seat at a movies. It may be hard for some people to believe but the children now growing up are lucky if they know their mom's or dad's. It's a dog eat dog world and it will never change!

1:19PM PDT on Apr 25, 2010

Stigma and fear seems to be at the root of society's mis-understanding, behind our attempts to either shelter or shun people with disabilities. I took a class on disability studies, and it is the new civil rights similar to when women's studies was such a big thing. We all need to be enlightened and inclusive. Thanks for this article as we need to shed light on a topic than some would otherwise avoid.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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