"You're Such a Strong Person."

Confession: I say "oh thanks" after this is said to me. Even though, really? I am not thinking that I am thankful for anything (generally) when this is said to me.

In truth when this is said to me I think that I am being reminded, yet again, that I have *something* to be strong about. Something that the person saying to me, doesn't have. A reminder of my difference. And I know that this thinking has many errors to it! Because I am the person who believes the best of everyone, I believe that everyone lives a life where they have something to be strong for. Something that takes courage in the honesty that we each live our lives with. Still though, this statement bugs me.

Because I'm not a strong person in so many ways. I need someone else's help when opening or pouring a gallon of juice or milk because otherwise it will spill everywhere in that first pour. I need ten more minutes in bed on Monday mornings, ten minutes that inevitably always makes me at least ten minutes late. I do not do horror movies. I don't care how little blood or how fake-looking the creepy monster is - I just don't. I need juice to chase away the liquid Robitussin that I take when I get sick. Also, I need to build myself up to the taste of the liquid Robitussin that I take (and this takes some amount of mental coaxing.) For the first two months of school I always have to write down everything I say before I actually say them, until I get used to things. I make my friends wait with me for the bus at night because I do not want to wait by myself, or I resort to the pretend-to-talk-on-my-phone trick. When winter arrives I shake my boots upside down with unnecessary vigor in case there are spiders, or spider eggs that have somehow gotten inside during the other months I wasn't wearing them. And also in new places I've never slept before (like hotel rooms), I have to have the bathroom light left on because otherwise I get... umm.. nervous.

In my mind those are the things that I have had to be strong for in my life. Those are the things where I have actually had to take effort and say "okay, I can do this.. this is actually just an illogical fear because I am a ridiculous and absurd freakazoid." But the person who tells me "you're such a strong person" probably doesn't know about any of those absurdities. I know this because usually... I have been told "you're such a strong person" for the really simple things that I do. The things that I don't really have a choice about doing.
I don't have a choice in getting out of bed and going about my day. But I have been told "you're such a strong person" for doing just that! I don't have a choice in going to school with a cast on.. because, well because my parents said I need to go or I'll be in even more trouble! I don't have a choice in the surgery that I needed because that was the only option that would make me better. I also didn't have a choice when I went to that job interview because in order to reach my goal of employment, failed job interviews is a part of the process. I didn't have a choice in talking about why I'm disabled in front of my classmates because in my mind I knew this would help me be safer in school, and help my classmates feel more comfortable around me. I didn't have a choice when it came to learning how to advocate for myself because I learned that's one of the ways a person with a disability survives. And yet in each of those moments I was told "you're such a strong person."

Is it because I haven't let being disabled sideline me? Haven't let it keep me at home twiddling my thumbs and pleading to the gods about why? Well, in that case everyone that I see walking about the city streets are also such a strong person. But how come no one is telling them that?....Exactly. That's what I thought too.

Maybe all of this is strange to me because it's a matter of perspective. Because I, quite frankly, do not know of any other such life than the one I am doing such kind of living in.

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4 Responses to "You're Such a Strong Person."

  1. I feel very much the same way you do when I get this comment. I think, if they only knew how lazy I can be. That Saturday when I should be doing laundry but want to stay in bed with a book or movie instead. Or the desire I had to move to DC but chickened out when I thought about dealing with city streets and public transportation. Instead I went with the "easy" route and stayed local, got my drivers license and bought a car. I thought about medical or law school but decided I didn't want to study that much so I got my masters degree in criminal justice instead. However, in the past few years, I have seen that while my path to school, driving, owning a home and working full time seemed "easy" to me, it's not always easy for even those who are able bodied. When they see those of us who, in their eyes, have more obstacles to overcome, they see us a strong. I've come to realize I could have taken the easy way.. Lived with mom and dad forever, let them drive me around and lived on social security income. Then I wouldn't have to get up for work every day, fight traffic, deal with bosses, etc. I could stay home, sleep in, do what I want day in and day out. However, my parents raised me the same way as my older sisters. They taught us you have to work hard for the things you want in life and don't expect anything to be handed to you. Thankfully my OI doesn't limit me and I can work hard for what I want. It feels awesome to know I've earned the things I buy and can live completely independent. A side part to this that I have only recently become more comfortable with, asking for help. Sometimes it is something I can't reach in a store or other times it is something that would be safer for a taller or stronger person to do.

    1. Hmmm I can definitely understand where you're coming from in your comment because it sounds like we were raised similarly w/our siblings. And I'm probably still in a ton of denial about asking for help when I need it / pretending like I never need help, ever. Like ever (*cue that annoying Taylor Swift song*.) But your comment also made me think that maybe "being a strong person" just means taking the effort to sort thru all the crap to know what works for you!

  2. Interesting post and I think a lot of has to do with individual perceptions of things. As you say, you feel you don't have a choice with a lot of the decisions you have made. How many times have we heard about a heroic act on the news where the hero says, "I don't see myself as a hero. I had no choice. I did what I had to do." Yet we might put ourselves in his or her position and say, "No way could I have done that." From reading your blog, I do think of you as a strong person, but it doesn't have to do with dealing with your OI. Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

    1. Your comment makes me relieved in a strange way that it's not because of the OI! Relieved because I think the chances of me not having been born with OI will always be greater, so in my ideal-mind I would still have a chance at being a strong person. But the reality is that I was.. and it feels good to know that there are people who think I still am a strong person despite the OI and my irrational fear of spiders! =)


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