Monday, March 14, 2011

The Detailed Answer

I work with people who have disabilities.  All sorts of disabilities.  Some people are in a wheelchair and some use crutches or walkers.  Others have difficulty communicating.  Many have some sort of mental health concern and all have a developmental disability. 

I spend a lot of time trying to put myself in other people's shoes.  Trying to imagine what it would be like to try to learn how to cook if I couldn't read, couldn't follow directions and had difficulty problem solving. Trying to imagine how scary it might be to learn how to take the city bus if I had mobility issues or difficulty with directions or depth perception.  Trying to imagine how much courage it would take to face the world every day if I looked different, talked differently or processed things differently than other people. 

I try hard to imagine.  But I know I can't possibly come close to understanding. 

Just like no one can come close to understanding what it's like to live with diabetes. Because what it looks like on the outside is only a shadow of what's going on in the inside. People see the blood testing, the insulin pump, the packs of fast acting carbs that I carry.  They don't see the constant processing of information and weighing of variables that must happen to stay, as much as possible, in the 'safe' zone.

Ever had someone ask you what you were thinking?  I do that a lot to people.  It does not always go over well (trust me!) but it does provide some interesting insight into their thought processes.  Especially if your next question is "how did you start thinking about that?". 

Ask someone with a disability how they prepare a meal.  Ask them how they know when to ring the bell to get off the bus or how they tell the difference between a $10 and a $20 bill.  Ask someone in a wheelchair what they have to think about if they want to go out for coffee with a friend. Chances are the way that they look at the world and the things that they have to think about will surprise you.

Ask someone with diabetes why their blood sugar was high or low or ask them how they are going to calculate their next insulin bolus.  Specify that you want the detailed answer not the simple one.  And then pull up a chair and prepare to learn a lot about food, fibre, monthly cycles, types and length of exercise, insulin stacking, illness, intuition and witchcraft. 

Ask someone you love why they love you.  Ask for the detailed answer.  It might just make your day.

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