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Sunday, 21 April 2013

What a difference a DOG makes


When I go out, people don't talk to me. They stare, some smile, and nobody talks. Well, that's not true, there is a minority who bend down and shout in my face like I'm deaf, regardless of the fact that I have been having a normal conversation with my mum. But most of all I don't exist. I'm not a person, just a wheelchair. That's all they see.

 
And then we got Molly. Now when I go out, people will approach me and talk to me like they would a friend. They strike up conversation with me, usually beginning with "Aww, a puppy!" and the wheelchair disappears. I'm no longer disabled, handicapped, sick, have special needs, or whatever else people usually think; I'm just Lucy. Having Molly makes me a part of society, and makes me feel valued. Having her makes me a regular person, like everyone else. I can't tell you how amazing that feels.

I'll hold my hands up; prior to becoming ill I often stared, wondering what illness or disability a person had, and like most people, I didnt intend to be rude, I was just curious. But I have a whole new appreciation and understanding. I will now say hello, and will gauge their level of capability through their reply, if I get one. That is because I understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end of the stares, the whispers, the ignorance and the judgemental preconceived ideas.

 
Everyone knows how it feels to be stared at and talked about, I'm sure, but it's ten times more when you have a disability. Not just wheelchairs, but limps, deformities, short stature, people signing, white canes, etc. they all generate stares from others that are more than just glances or double takes. To be honest I don't mind people staring at me; most of it is genuine and harmless curiosity, but if I catch your eye and smile, be courteous and smile back.

We went along the cliffs today with Molly and met a Springer Spaniel also called Molly, a show Cocker Spaniel called Miley, and also an elderly lady with her lurcher, all of whom talked to me; I was really pleased.  So many people stopped me so they could see the puppy.  One lady even asked why I was in a wheelchair, so I got to spread some awareness of EDS, autonomic dysfunction/dysautonomia and intestinal failure. I was so happy! Nobody ever asks, and I'd rather they did. I know some people don't see it the same way I do, but asking me why I'm in a wheelchair rather than just staring will break down that barrier and they will be more understanding of disabilities as a whole in the future. Curiosity is often mistaken for rudeness, but society is so frightened of doing or saying the wrong thing and being politically correct that all they can do is stare in fear of upsetting others. I often feel like carrying a sign which says "just ask me" so that people will realise that I am "all there" and don't have any learning difficulty which will prevent me from holding down a "normal" conversation.
 

Having Molly has completely changed my life in many ways, breaking down the huge barriers between people with disabilities and the rest of society. Long may it continue!

About Lucy Watts MBE


Lucy is a disabled 22 year old young lady with life-limiting complications of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She writes and speaks for a number of charities and runs this blog. She is an Ambassador for Together for Short Lives and Dreams Come True, Trustee for the Pseudo Obstruction Research Trust and is the first Youth Ambassador for the International Children's Palliative Care Network, also working with charities such as Scope and the Council for Disabled Children as well as Association for Young People's Health via the Young People's Health Partnership, the Children's Health and Wellbeing Forum and the Children and Young People's Health Outcomes Forum. Lucy was appointed MBE in the Queen's New Year Honours 2016 for her Services to Young People with Disabilities.
View all posts by Lucy →

2 comments:

  1. Dear Lucy: Thank you for sharing your story. I have become quite limited with arthritis and I so understand the stares from people. It has made me want to stay home all the time. I so admire you for your determination in getting out there. I am also a dog lover with spaniels so I just adore Molly! I'm so glad you found each other! Stay strong! -Maris

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  2. Thank you, Lucy. You are so courageous and I admire you very much. Of course, I found your story through Molly's blog. I live in America and have had buff cocker spaniels, but have always had a soft spot for parti-color cockers and used to give my pups the English cocker grooming rather than the American style.

    Molly's a very lucky girl to have become a part of a wonderful, caring family. Your and Molly's story brightens my day and I look forward to your posts.
    Marie

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