How do you see me?
I walk around with a portable oxygen bottle and trolley everywhere I go. But of course, I tend to forget that there's anything "wrong" with me. Over the years I have become accustomed to living with a disability. It is not until I venture out that I am sometimes reminded that I look a little bit different to most people.
Recently, I was able to experience what it must be like for others who see me for the first time. I've never seen a person as young as myself out in public using portable oxygen. I've only ever seen others in my situation while attending hospital and medical appointments.
I was a stallholder at a craft market. I noticed a young woman walking around looking at the stalls with her friend. My first thought was that it was so nice to see someone else in a similar predicament out and about and enjoying their day. It's a huge challenge just to leave the house when you struggle to breathe. I started wondering what was "wrong" with her. Then I had my most ridiculous thought. I was sad that someone so young had to live like that.
When she approached my stall, we had a little chat and made a joke about our matching oxygen bottles and trolleys. Neither of us asked each other any medical questions. I was there to sell my wares at the craft market. She was there to shop. It was a simple pleasant conservation. It was nice.
It wasn't until I was on my way home later in the afternoon that I started to think more. I thought about how other people may perceive me when they see me for the first time. I know that other people often wonder about why I'm in this situation. I'm actually quite amazed at just how many people are upfront about asking me directly. This chance meeting has certainly made me think twice about my perceptions.
Do you often get questions from other people about your disability? How do you respond? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.