Thoughts | The Visibility of a Physical Disability

The truth about prioritizing health (3)

A few weeks ago I fell in the street coming home from a spontaneous fancy dinner with my fiancé. I wish it was a better story of debauchery and frolicking, but sadly it’s one of uneven pavement and inattention. Anywhoo, in one fell swoop the evening’s mood changed dramatically, and even though it’s been the better part of a month, I’ve yet to wear two shoes (hello, snazzy medical boot) because my foot is still black and green with bruising (so cute, I know).

I wanted to write this post, because it’s really been the first time since all of my GI health issues, that I’ve had any kind of visible physical ailment. If I had a dollar for every time a stranger has approached me in the last couple weeks to ask what happened and recounted some stranger in their life who has also fallen and couldn’t get up (insert LifeAlert joke here), I’d be able to go on another fancy dinner. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been stopped by strangers in the grocery store, on the street, and randomly at work . . . and each and every time, it’s an unremarkable story.

Despite my lack of exciting backstory, the recovery has been really eye-opening, because while I think some people ask what happened to offer genuine sympathy, others have been less kind when I respond with a less-than-Oscar-worthy explanation of how I got hurt. It’s not that I’ve been trying to get sympathy with the boot (I literally can’t put on a regular shoe because of how swollen it is), but it’s made me think about all the days when I haven’t been feeling well (internally), and no one can see it. Like, does it really matter if I fell off a tightrope, or was dancing with wolves in the forest, or just fell down like a regular person? I’d think not, but I guess to some people, the “how” really matters.

This injury has made me think about how visible, physical illnesses provide an unspoken introduction that permits, maybe even encourages others to start a conversation or to ask a question. People with crutches and boots and canes typically never get looked at sideways for parking in a handicap spot, while it’s not uncommon for people with heart conditions and other non-visible illnesses to get stopped, or even accosted, for parking in similar spots.

I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s been interesting comparing the two kinds of health conditions. On one hand, a visible physical injury gives people more context when you need extra time to walk across a restaurant to get to your table. When I’ve had a GI flare in a similar situation, it usually goes unnoticed (or I try to deal with it discretely with meds or whatnot). On the other hand, visible physical injuries are 24/7, while most internal health issues are more fluid in their intensity.

When I first fell, I didn’t even take off the bandages from the hospital for two days because it hurt too much to touch it. I slept in a splint every night, and for the first week I really didn’t even get out of bed because I couldn’t put any weight on that side of my body. A positive to physical injuries is that they’re usually limited in duration and discomfort (e.g. broken arm, leg, cuts, bruises, etc.), unless they snowball into more serious, permanent conditions. To juxtapose that to some of my internal health issues, I have no idea if or when I’ll ever be 100% better. Short of a full-body swap, I know that some of my organs will always function well-below any healthy 20-something. Heck, my GI tract and acid reflux response (I’ve been told) is worse than most senior citizens . . . but that doesn’t stop me from being positive and celebrating the rare “good” days I get now and then.

So, that’s my little life update. The foot thing’s been a bit of damper, as I had a cross-country trip scheduled before I got hurt . . . so limping through the airports (at a moderate speed so we didn’t miss our connecting flights) was a bit of a challenge, to say the least. As far as wedding planning goes, our save the dates are starting to hit mailboxes right now. We mailed some of them from Washington D.C., because it’s an important city to us. See this post if you want to read about it.

The house is just about finished, but at the same time, is always a work in progress. I think all we have left is some landscaping and interior touch-ups (ugh, and changing out some plumbing that isn’t quite right). It feels like it’s been forever, but now that it’s basically all done, it still seems crazy to see finished details for things that seemed so insignificant a year or two ago.

Other than that, life is simultaneously slowing down and speeding up. I haven’t really given much thought to a wedding dress, but that’s next on my list of things to chip away at before the wedding. We just picked out our cake, so that was exciting, and surprisingly more seamless than either of us had anticipated. I’ve been meaning to be more active on here, but life happens and before you know it, another month has passed. But like with everything, I’m trying to find a balance between writing and posting on here, and life off the blog, which lately has been taking up all my time between moving and working and all of the health hiccups in-between.

That being said though, I hope these somewhat random thoughts add a bit of context to your daily life; if anything, maybe some cause to pause and think before asking (or not asking) someone who’s dealing with something. It doesn’t have to be a health issue. It could be something they posted about on social media and you just scrolled through, instead of shooting a quick message to check in (e.g. the passing of a pet, a family member, tough life situations, whatever). It could be something you heard from a friend of a friend. It could be shitty weather that’s on their side of the country and not on yours.

Whatever it is, I hope your Tuesday feels less like a Monday and more like a Friday, because every day has the potential to be a good day, even if you’re walking with a limp these days and haven’t worn matching shoes in almost a month.

Until Soon,


Author: 2LWithIt

Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.

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