The other day, one of my college "friends" asked me if I could come to one of her events. We just had a snowstorm, so I mentioned that while I would like to go, I was nervous about safely walking through the snow and ice.
"Well," she said, "I think you need to stop being so worried about snow and ice. I walk in the snow and ice all the time and I'm fine, and I walk a lot farther than you do."
I took a few moments of silence to recover, and then I said, "I don't think you understand."
I explained, briefly, about how if I fall and get hurt, it's not like I can just use crutches for a few weeks and then be all better. A bad fall could set me back for a lifetime. I told her that, years ago, I fell and broke my leg in a bad spot and I had to get emergency surgery and withdraw from school. I explained that my surgeon didn't think I'd ever be able to get rid of my crutches after that, and that six years later, I'm still recovering from that injury.
And then she looked at me and she said—I kid you not—"Yeah, it was tough when I broke my foot. Sometimes I can't run as fast because of it. But you won't fall again. You should come to my event!"
I can't make this stuff up. She fractured her foot in October of 2012—a year and a half ago—and our situations are nowhere near the same. Sure, she wore a cast for a few weeks and I bet it was annoying. She couldn't run on the cross-country team while it healed. But there was never any doubt that it would heal, never any doubt that she would walk again. She didn't have to get emergency surgery and she could still go to school without worrying about her leg imploding. And it's hard for me to sympathize with the fact that "sometimes she can't run as fast," because I can't run AT ALL.
Sometimes I just want to shut my eyes and bury my head in a pillow and try to forget about all of the ignorance in the world. It's almost as if she's trying to make me feel bad for having a disability, and it seems that she's always trying to equate her own experiences with mine. I love when people can really and truly empathize, but having a broken foot for a few weeks is NOTHING like having a lifelong disability, and yet it seems as though she always tries to make it seem as though I'm being melodramatic.
As I'm writing this post, I'm trying not to let myself get upset, but for the love of all that's good in the world, sometimes it's so freaking hard NOT to get upset. Sometimes I want to sit in the corner of my room and put my head in between my knees and cry until I'm all out of tears. Because sometimes life's just hard. And I know that struggle is part of being human. I know that even the girl I'm discussing here has experienced that.
But somehow everything seems so much harder when someone dismisses your struggles. She thinks she knows what it's like to walk in my shoes, and yet she's never been told that she'll never walk again. She's never listened to her brother break down and sob next to her hospital bed as she wished with all her might that she could take the hurt away. She's never laid in an emergency room and seen the panic on a surgeon's face as he realized that immediate surgery was needed. She thinks she understands, but she doesn't. Not at all.
She always seems to be trying to convince me that her fractured foot was so much worse than anything I've ever been through. The more I think about this, the less sense it makes.
There is no way she could walk a mile in my shoes . . . especially if it was icy outside.