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Thread: How do you respond?

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    kenmore wa

    How do you respond?

    This is a lame question because after 28 years I should know how to handle it gracefully. When it comes up in conversation with strangers (they ask)about why my husband is in a chair and I tell them "oh he broke his neck" they quickly say how sorry they are etc. The problem I have is that it has been so long and so much has happened sci isn't an issue per se, it is just life. So I probably sound callous when I say "oh it was so long ago it isn't important any more". I am not good at accepting sympathy--I would probably say I am fine even if I was dead--but on the other hand I don't feel comfortable acting like it's no different than having a splinter. I can handle the "how do you have sex" questions better than that one! Anyone have any suggestions?

    "We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us."~~Sartre

  2. #2
    Senior Member ohiochica's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Youngstown Ohio usa
    marie2, i have no clue as this is something new to me, but just to let you know you are not alone in this. i absoluetly hate that. i know jack doesnt want sympathy.

  3. #3
    Actually this is a very rude question. It is no one's business why someone is using a chair. If you want to blow them off, I say "why do you want to know?" which usually shuts them up. If you want to be more tolerant (while grinding your teeth) you can can "because he has a disability that prevents him from walking". My mother has MS and uses a power chair, and I often deal with this when we travel etc., so this is what I say. No one needs to know she has MS who is a stranger to us (and then feel they have to tell her about Montel Williams or Richard Pryor or Annette Funicello!!!!!). Her friends and our family know; that is all that matters to us.


  4. #4
    Member THP's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Grapevine, Tx USA
    Use those instances as opportunities to lobby for the cure! Tell them "thanks to stem cell research he won't be there long". "Can we count on your support?"


  5. #5
    I partly agree with KLD, it is none of their business, but there really is more to it. If your husband is there (this is a different problem with strangers) I would say "ask him," otherwise I'd vote for "because he can't walk." People ask for a million reasons including that they assume that his problem must be the same as their loved-one's, they want to discuss their malady, or they want to feel luckier than you. It's a human trait. If you do want to talk, go for Tom's response.

  6. #6
    Most people will just stare, sneaking glances at you, and NOT ask anything. They are more likely uncomfortable acknowledging the fact you are in a chair. Some will ask, out of curiosity or genuine interest, and most who do ask are not intentionally being crude or rude. It may become annoying to have strangers be so direct and ask "why are you in a chair" or even "what's wrong with you?", because you have dealt with these questions and situations so many times before. But for those people asking the question, it may be their first time dealing/interacting with someone in a wheelchair, or their experience with disabilities have been very little.

    I personally prefer to have someone who is curious to be direct with me and ask, rather than continue wondering "what's wrong with that person", awkwardly sneak glances at me. To have others continue their misconceptions of people with disabilities and allow their lack of understanding to shape their understanding of those who live with varying disabilities and subsequent treatment them, does more harm than my simply taking a moment or two to tell them just as directly and matter of factly why I am in a chair. Most adult strangers are not going to walk up to you, ask you why you're in a chair and then walk away (tho I've had children do that, which I actually love when they do). If you've engaged them in some conversation/interaction, however superficial, you are imparting on them a greater awareness and (hopefully) understanding of people who are in chairs through their brief experience with you.

    Whether we like it or not, I believe that we as individuals have the unsolicited burden of representing people with disabilities as a whole. You can use that as a responsibility to effect some change, even if just through those fleeting human connections made, or not.

    It can be triresome and plain annoying sometimes, but it's just a part of the burden of being in a chair. How we respond to others will inevitably reflect back on how they respond to us (and not just on an individual basis, but on a socio-political spectrum- including attitudes and consequent policies toward cure).

    "do not be too moral. you may cheat yourself out of much life. aim above morality. be simply not good; be good for something."

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Summerhill, Pa
    I look at it this way. When ever I see someone else in a chair or with some other disability I say a prayer for that person. So it does not bother me when someone shows concern about my husband being in a chair. May be they will say a prayer for my husband (and me, too!)Even though it is old news (15 years)

  8. #8
    I usually just say, "He pissed me off one too many times!" But, I probably use humor inappropriately sometime. I kind of have a twisted sense of humor, so I would never take MY advice!

  9. #9
    I am new here. My husband has a t2 sci from childhood. When people ask "whats wrong with him" I say "nothing, what do you mean?". When they try to hand me his change at the store I refuse to put my hand out and just stare. I stare back if someone stares at him and I notice (I hardly notice). I figue if their parents didnt teach them to be polite I would shame them into it myself. I do it to kids once they are old enough to know better too.

    As for the "oh I am sorry" bit, I too find myself off guard and say "no its ok, hes fine" or "no its fine, we dont care". but its true, I dont care, he doesnt care, and we are both fine. I dont know what to say and how to respond. If its an absolute stranger asking me "why is he in a chair" I say "he cant walk" or just ignore them.

    So no answers really. Nothing wrong with dropping your jaw open a bit and just staring at them. I have to admit, I am not really that friendly to strangers anymore cause of dumb reactions. But I hardly notice them anymore.

  10. #10
    I have a good laugh at peoples' comments sometimes. One guy asked my boyfriend, "Didja get hurt? I got hurt once, but after a couple of months I got better, so dont worry about it, you will be fine." We had a good laugh about that.

    I dont know how to handle the Im sorry stuff. My family still does that to me and I hate it. I hate it from strangers and I hate it from family and friends. you're right about the answering the sex question, it is much easier. I just dont like the pitty party thing.

    Oh, I like the "He pissed me off" comment..I will have to try that one some time.


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