My MSAA Community
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Handling comments

Good morning all. Had an experience yesterday that is still making me mad, could use some community insight...Went to a company wide meeting yesterday and a woman I barely know saw me in my wheelchair in the bathroom and said "So what tragic accident did you have?" A terrible question no matter what has happened, especially if I had been in a terrible accident. She came off as if she thought I was faking. I realized later she had probably seen me stand up for a second (a huge accomplishment for me though I'm still a long way from walking). I've been in a chair since I was diagnosed 3 months ago. I'm still dealing with that reality myself and I don't feel I owe her or anyone else an explanation, but how do you all handle these kinds of intrusive commentaries, especially at work?

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While I'm not in a chair yet, I really got the looks when I showed up in camp with a cane on my recent group ride down the coast of California.

I just said it was to help stabilize me in camp. Later, one night in camp, I was honored for something else and announced about the MS. I am blessed with all the support of our group.

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OK this is a hard one because you are at work, my question is obviously work knows you have MS. Who is this idiot oops I ment to say person in the company. You see when I had my job I had a rollator and I worked in a school system my big mistake was I told them I had MS and that was like a sign on me saying let's get rid of her but then I had people that were very nice too me

Some times it is best not to let people like that know what is going on its not there business,

She will find out on her own if she is so rude to talk to you that way she isn't worth the air to talk to her

Now before I got to the point of even using a cane I had this old man give me a dItry look because I was parked in a handicap spot and I was using a grocery carriage I turned around an said watch the way I walk and you will know why I parked there so I took about five steps then I turned to say now do you see why I am parked there He sheepishly turned and walked away

Now nice people don't ask why people your in a wheelchair not like that lady at your work there just rude I wouldn't give them the time of the day. There not worth it

Sorry I got a little wordy

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Oh good lerd, what a jerk. I'm sorry!

Um, a-hole comments at work use to make me pretty upset because I worked with nurses, people who are suppose to care but the truth is they can be some of the most heartless judgmental people on earth, but I was shown this long before getting sick.

I had to work very hard at not giving in to their bad energy. I had to remind myself that what they say is not about me, but about their sad need to belittle or judge anyone, and I just happen to be their opportunity today. I already knew that trying to explain my situation would not result in compassion and understanding because either they knew my diagnosis or I'd already seen how they treated their own patients. Plus, why waste that energy on them.

So I guess I didn't handle it. Most of the time I was so shocked that nothing came out of my mouth. Had I continued working, I bet I would have blasted someone eventually and been written up for it because I don't take much crap lightly.

So perhaps you should listen to nothing I say! I'm sorry I can't be more helpful to you and I'm sorry that this jerk is worrying you at a time when your energy should be the most focused on recovering.

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@ylimem , My favorite thing to do is to throw it back to them and say, "Why do you ask?" Remember, Ann Landers says that "Nobody can do anything to you that you do not let them!"

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ylimem i would just say' be thankful it isn't you in this wheelchair' and turn away, blessings Jimeka 🦋 🌈

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I like your response, but wouldn't it be good to run over there toes. Ok you can tell the people who have had rude people they worked with. Ok I'll stop.

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So far I guess I've been lucky, really haven't had any bad comments. I did have one gentleman ask if I was drunk and then say he was kidding. I said no I have MS and he said he walks like that because he's old. I do get some looks when I carry my cane because I don't need it yet, or when I quite easily walk out of the grocery store with my shopping cart and then look like a drunk after I've put it away and am heading back to my car.

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Funny thing I asked myneurologist if I ever get pulled over and they want me to walk a straight line can I just give them your phone number and you can tell them that I have a MS and there's no way I'm gonna walk any line LOL

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There's a county in GA were cops who take a special course are allowed to pull people over and send them to jail for being under the influence of pot (if breathalyzer is negative). They get charged even if their urine test is negative because "by then it was out of your system, or the test are false positive anyway". I've often thought about what would happen if I were pulled over, scary stuff.

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I'll start caring my diagnosis letter in the car!

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Ohhh, great idea!

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I don't think I was ever good at walking a straight line

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Thanks everyone! I work in a big place but I'm a department of 1 so it makes me anxious to go to these big spaces where I inevitably get some comment like this.

Also I totally get the drunk comments. I left a bar with my boyfriend the other day and hew was supporting me while I was practicing walking. Must have looked like he was kidnapping me!

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Repeated questions and unwanted comments are harassment, I'm sure your HR has a policy on it.

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Me and my husband go to a bar on Tuesdays to play darts. He drinks, I don't. I'm the one who looks drunk. But I guess if you're going to look drunk, why not a bar.

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Sometimes I just have to laugh when people misjudge us. I still get tickled remembering when my dad stayed with me after he suffered a stroke. He could barely stand, but so wanted to be outside and try to walk. So he leaned very heavily on me while I tried to keep him upright with a gait belt. He looked quite drunk. I had a very nosy neighbor at the time who knew everything about everyone in the neighborhood. My dad, a teetotaler, and I laughed ourselves silly about the picture we made and the ensuing gossip that was sure to follow.

I think most people aren't really trying to be rude (with a few exceptions). I hate to think about the many thoughtless comments I've made and then quickly regretted. I do like the response, "Why do you ask?"

An elderly man in our church found out I had MS and responded with "they can't cure that, can they?" He's such a sweetheart, so I knew he wasn't trying to hurt my feelings. Had it been a stranger, I may have been hurt.

We will always have to deal with stares, rude comments, and awkward questions. I pray I can respond well and think quickly on my feet (or off of them, come to think of it!)

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@ylimem, it's too bad you're having to put up with this kind of thing, but it's surprising how common it is. There are people who have the notion (apparently) that the only people who "need" wheelchairs are those who have totally lost the use of their legs. I don't know why it doesn't occur to them that the need for a wheelchair can be an off-again-on-again kind of thing, or maybe the person tires easily and has disabling symptoms after walking a short distance, as often happens with MS.

And there are plenty of other people who can still stand and walk (a little) but need a wheelchair. Just today a neighbor of mine was coming down the hall towards the mailboxes in the building we live in. She was hit by a car a couple of years ago and nearly killed but after extensive hospitalizations and surgeries, she was put back together well enough to return home--though in a wheelchair. She still looks like a shadow of her former self.

Today I saw her get up out of the wheelchair in order to look into her mailbox. She almost has to stand to reach her mailbox anyway. But it interested me that usually she's seen in a wheelchair, and yet she does this.

I've used a wheelchair most of the time--for all sitting and some walking--for over 30 years due to MS and have had numerous comments like the one you heard.

You've had some good suggestions for possible replies, I think. "Why do you want to know?" or "Just be glad it's not you in a wheelchair"--that's the kind of response you might have ready for people who ask nosy and rude questions.

I've sometimes heard, "Since you can walk, you don't really need that wheelchair," and my reply to that one is, "Oh, are you a doctor? Why don't we let my doctor and me decide whether I need the wheelchair?"

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ylimem

That was definitely a thoughtless comment but Sometimes the silent stares feel worse. Or when I tell them I have MS the "oh, I'm so sorry" comments feel very uncomfortable too 😯

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Karma!

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I do walk drunk with my cane especially in the heat. But I am so focused on my walking I probably miss the weird looks on people's faces. I will have to remember the line "why do you want to know" if anyone ever questions me. That's a really great one!

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It's really sad at the stares we get and the questions people ask! Sometime I just stare back. In the workplace, it's your business! You can choose to respond or not. That individual isn't your boss! Nine times out of ten, the person making the comment knows already! Which I can see why this would make you mad! I would respond and say its confidential!

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My answer to "what happened?" is simply "life" with a smile and I "walk away."

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Dear @ylimem,

First, I just want to say I am sorry that you were diagnosed with MS, that you are in a wheelchair, and that you have had to adjust to all of this. Having only been diagnosed three months ago, your plate is FULL. Fielding insensitive comments from others is especially difficult to do now, when you're juggling all this, emotionally.

I have a few general comments to start, if I may. The first is that I have been amazed at the variety of responses I get from others when they observe my disability. I am also often surprised at who is supportive in their response and who is not. I hope that sharing my observations will give you a heads-up and an emotional advantage in these situations!

The range of comments, as I'm sure you've begun to experience, is vast and includes those comments conveying genuine concern and warmth, to simple curiosity--like you're an oddity, to overt stares, to people who have no personal boundaries and ask very personal questions, to offers of assistance, to skepticism that you're really handicapped, to shaming you (ex. "Yeah, well, I'm tired too!"), to walking around you with complete indifference as if you were an inanimate object, to people who have no medical insight whatsoever, to strangers who recognize the symptoms and ask you if you have MS, to people who sigh and act like you are inconveniencing them by having to hold the door open for you, and others who run up from behind you so they can open the door before you get there and say "Take you're time. There's no rush." Then, there's always the comments or gestures that just leave you baffled, as to what they actually meant.

There are the coworkers whom you expected to be supportive, but you are surprised to find they are incapable of it. Their comments can sting because you didn't expect it. There are those whom you didn't expect to be kind, yet they are. One sibling may come through for you unexpectedly and the other, that you thought would be your champion, you learn doesn't have it in them after all. The elderly woman with a walker that you expect to be sympathetic, cuts you off so she can be ahead of you in line. The teenage girl who stops her car and rolls down her window to ask, "Are you okay? Do you need any help?" There are so many different types of responses and you can't predict who is going to say, or feel, or do what. It adds a layer of vulnerability to your already taxed ego!

This leads me to my second general comment. :) As a general rule, when it comes to responses, I think less is better. This is because, more often than not, people cannot comprehend what you're going through. Even if you do tell them all about your MS, it still won't be enough to reconcile in their minds why you need a wheelchair. Save yourself the grief and vulnerability. Have a simple, emotionally neutral response prepared to use in these situations and keep going. It is fairly infrequently that I explain about having MS.

For me, my response depends on where I think the commenter is coming from. In your situation in the bathroom, I find using "It's a long story" enough to quiet them, and enough to get out of the situation. You may be justified in giving a stronger retort, but I just don't find it is worthwhile engaging them. I don't want to get drawn into that.

You will have many charming interactions as well, as a direct result of your being handicapped in public, and these will restore your faith in mankind. You don't need help with those scenarios. :)

There are sometimes even opportunities to educate others about MS, and help them to see that this is what MS looks like. You don't need help with that either.

I've learned that some people just don't have the emotional capacity or personal life experience, to know how to act when faced with a handicapped person. They're clueless. Others are hostile or suspicious by nature, no matter whom they encounter. Still others, are just plain awkward in expressing themselves. Yes, you don't owe anyone an explanation, and you don't need to understand wherever it is that they come from either. When dealing with this type, I say protect yourself. Keeping it short and sweet works for me!

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Nom_De_Plume, I've reread you post a couple of times because there is lots of good wisdom in it. Thanks so much.

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MrBigCat Thank you for your reply! I'm glad if it helps anyone!

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Handling things like that is so so hard! I am not sure how I would handle that one! Besides run her over. Maybe roll right into HR after I asked her name? I'm sure you have heard the phrase. You don't know until you know. Meaning no one can understand MS unless this monster has bit you on the ass. Even then. I still don't understand. You owe no one an explanation. EVER! I have posted here before about a good response. With an ignoramous like her. Well, First it is none of your business. But since you asked. You just need to know. I have good days and bad. Today is a good day. Sometimes people just don't know they are rude. Something like that may make her think twice before she opens her mouth again. I am sorry that happened and this is all happening so fast to you. Just don't let MS take over. Also, don't forget to say a prayer for that woman.

Take care my friend.

Rob

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ylimem ihave multiple sclerosis- would you like to switch bodies with me???

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I'm thinking of wearing a MS tee shirt every day so there won't be any questions!

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You can I believe the MS website and get one of those orange bracelets I did but it took a long time to get it. It was free

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