tw: ableism, staring at disabled people
I look contagious but I’m not. How do I tell people this? How do I get them to stop staring and stop being afraid they’ll catch my uncatchable condition?
I don’t know, unfortunately. Do any of y’all have strategies for dealing with this?
My answer even now is cover up. That’s all I can do. I wish there was a better solution, sorry. If anyone has one, I’d love it.
(I’m also chiming in that wearing a t-shirt with my condition on it is highly uncomfortable and just not feasible.)
What do you mean by cover up? Do you mean like, wearing a lot of clothing? Or something else?
For example, if the mark is on your neck, wear high collars/a scarf. On your leg, wear pants. On your arm, wear sleeves/an armband. It sucks to do this when you’re really hot, but I chose to instead of being stared at. (You may choose not to, and that’s fine, of course.)
Depending on what type of mark it is, and how sensitive you are, you may be able to use make-up.
people can judge you as “looking contagious” from other chronic disabling conditions besides skin conditions. CF, COPD or asthma for example can cause a chronic cough that might appear like pneumonia or another contagious cough. Anxiety can manifest in chronic itching or skin picking which could be judged as head lice, etc.
Sometimes, it’s safer to lie about these conditions than to tell the truth and disclose (for example, if you are afraid of being outed at work, or if you are afraid of social backlash from a more chronic condition.)
Or simply stating “it’s not contagious” will often work.
I wish “it’s not contagious” worked more reliably, though. I have CF, and I disclose to more people than I probably should, because a lot of people won’t stop pushing after I try that.
Both of you have excellent points. By the way, has “something’s caught in my throat, no biggie” worked for any chronic coughers?
“Something’s caught in my throat,” wouldn’t work for my kind of cough. It’s huge, gagging, doubling me over for minutes on end, and has often ended with me throwing up in public. (Or wetting my pants. Yes I am admitting this in public on tumblr. Sorry for the TMI, but these are the realities people with disabilities face.)
In addition, so many times no one says anything, they just glare, or move away with a look of disgust, so I don’t feel like I can say anything.
This is something I’m dealing with a lot lately. Most people in the studio know it’s chronic and not contagious, but there’s one guy who looks at me, very pointedly, EVERY TIME I start coughing like, “So rude, why did you come to the studio SICK,” and “Ewwww.” And I always get THE LOOK on the bus.
I get constant commentary like, “Summer cold?” “Do you have the flu?” along with people moving away, avoiding me like I have the plague, etc. I mean, I understand. Because of the chronic illness, I can’t afford to get Regular Sick myself, it could make me really really sick and end up in the hospital, so I am very careful to wash my hands, avoid people who are ill, and so on. I understand that no one ever wants to get sick, regardless of their general health status. I also understand people have specific phobias and OCD and similar disorders themselves that would make my cough terrifying to them.
But being ostracized all the time sucks.
I had one clerk in Game Stop ask if I was turning into a zombie. I said no, it was a chronic condition, not contagious. He followed up with, “Okay. Well, are you going to bite me?” I said, “No, it doesn’t make me do that.” I know he was covering his fear with humor, but I felt humiliated.
Not everyone assumes contagion, though sometimes it’s kind of amusing. I was resting this weekend on my walker at the side of the sidewalk, trying not to hack up a lung, and an eclectically dressed very loud woman, who had been swearing at various business people for not providing her with a staple gun, duct tape, or safety pins (seriously, she was ANGRY) as they walked by, suddenly stopped and said to me,
I was like, “Wuh—*wheeze*-whha?”
“Vitamin C! Seriously, it’s an AUTOIMMUNE DISORDER. I should know. I had MS, I was in a wheelchair. VITAMIN C!”
I coughed and blinked and she yelled, “FEEL BETTER SISTER!” and darted across the road.
Well, I had consumed a cocktail of Airborne and Emergen-C that morning and guess what, I don’t have MS, so obviously it’s working. /sarcasm *lmao*
People far too often mistake my slurred speech and poor motor control as drunkenness and it has gotten me into trouble a few times. (eg: someone calling the police because I was drunk and disorderly when in fact I have having an absence seizure) One time I was pinned out and shouted at which triggered a larger seizure from stress and panic. Was only when I started full out convulsing I was let go without being charged but I was yelled at and generally felt less than human.
I dont have any way of downplaying or fronting this, except having someone close by to assist me/reassure people I’m sick not stoned off my face.
I now have social anxiety at being alone in public spaces and i dont know how to overcome it. :/