Since my stroke, I have had some pretty unexpected experiences with people. I know, especially now, that there will always be a large portion of people who have no clue about me and my situation. I also know that these people will not only not go out of their way to try and understand but they also will not ask a single question to aid even a little in their lack of understanding. I have accepted this much the same as I have accepted other things about people when it comes to my stroke, my disabilities and the many changes in me that have resulted directly from those.
My sister, for example, she refused to try to see things from where I sat. She saw everything happening to me as one of two things: weakness or a cry for attention. As I have said before, I’d gladly pass along the attention if it meant I could be normal again. My sister, she’s a real piece of work. She’s a truly unique individual. It really hurts to have a sister like her. She’s always been my biggest tormentor and my least favorite person in life. Any time I was bullied as a kid, she was the instigator. Any time I felt down on myself she never tried to help me up. Any time I felt like I was about to achieve a heightened level of confidence, she found a way to knock me down to where she liked me: unhappy, drowning in shame and hopeless.
My sister, I will name her Stilla, she rushed all the way down here under the guise of being the supportive older sister standing beside her worried mother, both grasping at the air for answers no one had when I first had my stroke. I really thought she was actually being the older sibling I needed, the sister other people are proud to have and quick to brag about. My husband, Kasper, warned me not to take too much comfort in her presence. I had always been quick to dismiss her history and patterns of behavior for the simple pleasure of believing I could have one of those sisters that people want to hold onto. It wouldn’t take long to discover that Kasper’s warning had been a prediction. By the end of her unwelcome and uninvited stay during the initial stages of my recovery (recovery begins pretty much the moment the bleeding stops), if one were to ask her how I was doing or displayed any interest in my recovery or well-being, they would receive a long list of reasons to hate me and why. I will now list a simple few:
- “She’s milking this for attention”
- “She’s being selfish”
- “She’s self-centered, I thought this would change her but it made her worse.”
As you can tell, these are not things normal people say about people in rehab, or learning a new way of life because of something out of their control. These are things clueless people who have a strong disconnect with reality think and share as if they are common thoughts. She did not even consider that I simply did not have time to worry about her because I was learning to accept my fate, live my ‘new’ life and hope that my baby was going to survive all of this. Near three years has passed since that part of my experience. We no longer talk and so far I’m okay with that.
I have had friends completely dismiss me because my life is now complicated, I expected that and have dealt with it as it comes; there’s really not much else one could do without appearing much too desperate for anyone to return to their side. I’ve had people stare and point at me. Kids whisper as I walk by, asking mom why I have a cane, why is my arm sticking out like that and why do I walk so funny? I have learned to stop barking at people and kids and now just ignore them; I have no idea how I gained that ability. I guess you just get used to it after a while. On the positive, some relationships had transformed from acquaintances to actual friendships. I receive a lot of support from people, mostly online but even that is much better than surrounding myself with people like Stilla.
It should come as no surprise that every now and then I’ll get into an argument and someone would dare use my situation, disability or whatever else against me. But, in three years, this has yet to happen! In 2012 as I fought for hours with various different people over presidential candidates, no one used my food stamps as an argument against me or the fact that Medicaid paid for all my treatments or that the federal government discharged/paid my student loans in the end. When someone talked about food stamps as if Obama created them himself and just passed them out with no applications to be filled or requirements to meet, I reminded them people like myself and my kids rely on those programs to survive, every response was the same “but you guys are different.” “You guys are the few that actually need them.” That was as far as it got and it’s not a bad response at all. I have argued with their logic but that is neither here nor there…ok it’s there but not here. Point being, aside from my sister, no one has really held anything out of my control against me…until about 3 days ago.
It all started with Obamacare. Chick shared on Facebook that stupid chain mail about the IRS taking your house; any idiot sharing that is just that, an idiot. But I was nice and calmly explained in type that this is false and why. I even provided helpful links from Snopes and healthcare.gov. I know it seems like I’m a big know-it-all but I am the first to tell you, I do not know it all, especially not when it comes to Obamacare but I’m also not an idiot and…I have Google. I think a large portion of societies Obamacare issues stem from a lack of knowledge; there seems to be no real investment in its true purpose getting out to the public. I do what I can and am learning to not be aggressive. If I hear or read someone sharing misinformation, I politely go about correcting them with little mentions first then slowly working my way into a discussion about how the person should consider looking into this, that and the other thing so they can inform themselves without being insulted. “Try seeing it like this” has become a popular line of mine. I tell my story, how it gave me a new perspective on not just the importance but the necessity of not only health insurance but affordable healthcare. To me, ‘care’ is not just insurance as people assume affordable care to mean. It also means the entire process from the insurance to the care you receive. People hear Obamacare or ACA and only think of another bill, the cost of insurance and not the care itself.
I sidetracked…sorry. This woman was offended by my response…like immediately. She even suggested I go work for Obama. What type of response is that? We went back and forth and she insulted me a few times but I’m used to that; there’s a lot of people who simply don’t like Obama…I’m honestly not sure how he became president but I’m not opening that can of worms. I gave a very brief list of reasons why he’s not as bad as people say. He’s no hero, but a tyrannical idiot deserving of direct and immediate impeachment? I don’t think he’s quite that bad. She then lists off these reasons to dislike him, ending with “I could go on but I have things to do.” At first, I was impressed. She never posted anything about the items listed; I was really starting to think she just kept her opinions to herself like most people; not me, but other most people. Her wording caught me off-guard. In other conversations her vocabulary seemed a little…stunted and here she was saying things like “military interventionism” and no, not big words but together…well, it sounds like you know what you are talking about, eh? Yeah. Without needing Google, I begin to provide other views, a little history and even some excuses I prefer to think of as reasons (think the obstructionism behind his ‘broken’ promise behind the [non] closing of Guantanamo Bay) as to why he made or was unable to make certain decisions. There was one she mentioned about supporting a mass murderer. I don’t know everything – I saved that one for last. I finish my other responses and go to Google that one on her list with the intention of telling her I am uninformed on that issue and can’t really provide any insight to my opinion because I haven’t one yet. In my search I found HER EXACT LIST ON MULTIPLE SITES SUCH AS THIS ONE. I deleted my comment and told her bluntly what had happened, ending my comment along the lines of “Your opinion has been rendered invalid because of the fact that you cannot form it on your own and must copy and paste your opinion from someone else…literally.” We went back and forth some more, proving that she did not have “things to do.”
Later that evening, I sat with Kasper, telling my excitement of the day and went to read him the conversation. And that was when I discovered…SHE CHANGED HER COMMENTS. I wasn’t 100% certain of the purpose, I’ll admit that openly even without a blog to hide behind, but I had the nagging feeling she did it to ‘tell me off’ without actually doing so. Her ‘new’ comments were abusive and had changed from commonplace disagreement to talking down to me. It was actually impressive considering she didn’t delete any of my comments. So I unfriended her. I have no time for these games and trivial pursuits of making oneself (whether myself or someone using me for their own purpose) look better. I, amazingly, have better things to do. I’ve been thinking of unfriending her for a while because her posts of her food are really gross and she posts things that make me want to comment negatively like how it is obvious she is in denial that her kid may have been expelled because he’s a “bad egg” or a bully or it’s likely he really did throw that brick and broke that window and she should stop trying to pin everything on the school. I never said these things; they are mere opinions I kept to myself out of decency and some sort of etiquette I’m not sure exists on Facebook. The next morning I awoke and checked my phone for the time and saw a message from Facebook. In no rush, it took me about an hour to get to reading it.
She said I couldn’t take a differing opinion and had to delete her, suggesting I was a hypocrite. I get where she would get that. I told her with honesty my true reason for deletion. She sent a big LOL and said she purposely did it to piss me off; she “knows how easy [I] am to piss off.” That’s well and fine; at least I learned she did exactly what I thought and I’m not crazy. We go back and forth, she tells me things to make herself feel better. I tell her she needs to get off her high horse.
“Stop acting like you are not trash. I know where you come from, everyone out of _______ is trash. And we KNOW the same people.” I don’t tell her that I actually can be kind of creepy in my skills to acquire information about someone. I also tell her I know where I come from (the same place) and I don’t deny or hide it; it made me who I am. I tell her I had been considering removing her as friend for a while now and why. I even went as far as suggesting she learn portion control and get her kids on the diet she is always posting about because “to be quite frank, they are not healthy looking and I’m glad to finally tell you because someone desperately needs to.” And they aren’t. It’s more an objective observation than it is a judgement. She tells me my kids aren’t healthy looking either…? I relay to her that both my kids have a nutritionist and they are well within healthy guidelines, above average iron, healthy weights. I know her story, she’s severely overweight (by like 300 lbs, no I’m not saying that to be mean) and as a result has a bad case of diabetes, is on SDI and cannot use any stairs. I told her: “I would have thought that, considering your own health issues you would work harder in helping your kids avoid the same miserable future you live presently.” She didn’t like that.
I feel horrible for the way I spoke to this woman, telling her she’s fat and setting up her kids to achieve the same goal of being fat. There’s nothing wrong with your weight number but spreading your unhealthy habits to your children isn’t exactly great, especially when all you talk about is how you hate your diabetes and the diet you are on and how you can’t enjoy the KFC you splurged on for your kids. And who cooks BBQ chicken AND meatloaf in one meal? Someone who isn’t looking to better herself health-wise and doesn’t care as much about her kids’ health as she claims…that’s who.
In a sad attempt to break me, she told me I fail my kids everyday because I cannot interact with them. This goes to prove how ignorant people are and can be. She says I’m a failure as a parent because I had a stroke and now I’m jealous because I can’t do things like everyone else. Now, I won’t deny an increased amount of jealousy that I experience when I see people, say…running. I’m not free of every emotion and never will be because no matter how hard I fight it, I am still human. I am still stunned that someone would think it is okay to talk to people this way. It’s almost as bad as this friend of mine’s girlfriend telling me to grow up followed by “I don’t care if you die!” Who needs to grow up in this conversation? I don’t even know her… It’s not what this whale of a woman said to me that bothered me, it’s the fact that she said it just to hurt me. It goes to show her character. I know I don’t fail my children. In fact, her little “I’m going to make you want to kill yourself” rant of a speech did quite the opposite. Without anger or despair, I set out to digest her words and I did so with an astounding amount of assuredness that she was completely wrong. I am here today because of my kids. Sure, I needed a reminder in the early stages when all seemed lost and too far out of my control to ever ‘get a grip’ but my husband guided me back and grounded me with the faces of our children, pictures of our years together and soft words only he could apply to my wounds like an herbal poultice. I am not a failure as a parent. Getting out of bed every morning takes strength. Yelling in frustration because I have met a challenge that seems impossible to overcome yet continuing to find a way through shows patience (though minimal) and that giving up out of frustration is not the answer; there is always a way. I am a living lesson for my children. I did not, have not and will not succumb to my disposition and I owe that need to fight to my children and husband. They will grow better because of this, because of me, because we are all still together. My husband and I fight, we do it in front of the children but one thing this ‘new’ personality has given me is the ability to know (and even appreciate) when I’m wrong and to openly acknowledge it and apologize for it without fear of losing my pride. Could there be many more lessons or expressions of character a parent could teach their children through example? Unlike this woman, I did not simply settle with these afflictions as if they will forever be a part of me, letting them become me.
Through intended insult, I found a sense of ownership. I own my disabilities, they do not own me. No words of an outsider can tear me away from the truth of my reality. I am not perfect, never have been, but I am me and though I may be disabled I am not a disability to my children. They will ‘hate’ me for the same reasons healthy kids ‘hate’ their healthy mom. They will not think of me when I’m gone as a weak woman or one too proud to admit her faults or too proud to overcome them. My disabilities and past are only mere additives that add flavor to who I am such as salt and pepper to a stew; the meat and vegetables, the broth, those are what truly make the stew delectable and crave-worthy, those are the ingredients people wait anxiously to enjoy.