If you happen to be friends with or know somebody that has a disability, you might have noticed one thing that we all seem to have in common: humour. More often than not we will be funny, we’ll make you laugh and sometimes we are the life of the party. Now this is a generalization that I have noticed in myself and other disabled people I have known and met over the years.
When people usually first meet me they have one of two reactions to my visible disability; they either ask me straight away what on earth happened to my leg. Or they will force themselves to talk about everything but my obvious disability. I personally have no issue with either approach, what I do not appreciate is somebody staring at me for ages yet still not coming up to me and asking the question that is so obviously on their mind.
Growing up, and especially during secondary school I would never tell people what happened to my leg. Classmates would come up to me and ask “So seriously what happened to your leg?” and I would simply refuse to answer. Which I have the right to do so, I do not have to provide you with any information that I do not wish to. What I found work best for me was to be funny. Had I known somebody for 5 years or 5 minutes they would usually end up saying the same thing, I’m quite funny. That’s of course if they don’t hate me straight away.
I have found that being humorous disarmed people and it also distracted away from to having to talk about my condition. And further questions about how it has affected me, my life, my upbringing and everything else in between. I avoid talking about my polio and scoliosis as there not the funniest of subjects. While I do not owe anybody my laughter, friendships are important and it’s kind of hard to sustain them if all you do is bum people out.
It’s easier to talk about all the hilarious episodes of Friends than to have to discuss the fact that more likely than not my polio will get worse, that I will have to have a hip replacement in the future. It serves me well to make light of my situation not just think your sake but for mine. Because it doesn’t help me to dwell on the things that may or may not happen, the very real possibility that if it rains I may or may not crack my head open on the concrete.
Life is just too short to be focused on my disability and to have it consume everything that I do, so I tell jokes and make people laugh. I’m the funny girl that you’ve known for 5 minutes for 5 years. Because of the way that I approach or don’t approach my disability, I find it difficult to be serious even in situations that don’t involve me or my condition, I try to diffuse situations with humour.
In all honesty being disabled sucks, looking around at my friends who I’m sure you love me as I adore them but having to see them slowing down just to accommodate me. Having to take the bus instead of the tube to accommodate me. It’s not a big sacrifice on their part but it’s the little things that I notice, and if I crack jokes or am the funny one in the group it just delays my thoughts about my disability and it helps keep my black from cracking. You see? I did it again.
I will have to go back to the hospital several times in my life, and it won’t just be for a routine check up. But when I am there on the hospital bed, I want to think back to the times we spent together. I won’t let you visit me in there, as I don’t want you to see me like that. I want you to think of the times I made you laugh so hard that your stomach hurt and tears came from your eyes.