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Pain and Respect – My BADD2012 Contribution

A group of us had just finished an excellent dinner and were now deciding what dessert to eat. Everyone was laughing and talking at once. Except for one person. One person who had, moments before, been joking loudly, fell silent. She sat very still.

Her husband noticed and turned serious. “We need to leave now“, he said, and they left. The rest of us paid for our meal and moved to the exit on foot and on wheels. The silent woman and her husband were already farther down the sidewalk heading back to their hotel.

I was shocked at what I saw. To me, it looked like the man was walking beside a stiff, wooden figure. The figure was not the sporty, active person I had met a few days previously. This was a person possessed. She was possessed by the pain of fibromyalgia right in the middle of having fun with friends. Her husband got her back to the hotel as quickly as they could walk. He gave her the medication she needed, put her to bed, and drew the curtains so the room was completely dark. He then joined us in a café next to the hotel where we had our dessert and coffee.

That was the day that I saw the face of real pain. I couldn’t pretend to understand it fully. I realized that I could never say “I understand what you are going through.” That would be a lie. There was no need for pity, either. All I could do was show respect and tolerance – the kind of respect and tolerance that we owe all human beings.

This particular incident comes to mind when I hear anyone express the thought that some people fake their illness or that they just want to collect benefits. How can we be so suspicious of others that we immediately assume they are lying or taking money from others? That is a shocking and terrible attitude for people to have.

When I read the blog posts submitted for Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD) each year, I am struck by one theme – a lack of respect we human beings can have for other human beings. Could it be that many of those posts would not have been written if some respect and tolerance had been shown? There could have been collaboration instead of conflict.

I think projects like BADD are good as an outlet for the voices of people with disabilities. I believe those voices are the key to developing more respect for each other. I almost feel like I shouldn’t be taking any of the spotlight on BADD. Then I remembered what I learned from watching my friend’s transformation under pain and thought of sharing my own path to better awareness about disability. We need to rid ourselves of any negative attitudes – especially in our governments where it is often amplified.

My humble plea is that we all examine our attitudes and start showing more respect today. Respect is not a cliché. It is the first step toward awareness and inclusion. We owe that to each other.

Now, go and read all the posts on the BADD 2012 web page. I hope they blow your mind.


  1. NTE
    NTE 2 May 2012

    Great post ~ I think your point about seeing it first hand in order to better understand it makes so much sense. But, even that, is not always enough: I do also hear a lot of ‘there are so many fakers, of course I don’t mean you, though.’ As if making an exception for one person eliminates the initial bigotry.

  2. Karen Mardahl
    Karen Mardahl 3 May 2012

    Thanks, NTE. Of course, even after recent demonstrations in the UK where people in wheelchairs with visibility chained themselves to lampposts or people affected by cuts in government subsidies marched on Parliament, government officials still seemed oblivious to what these people were going through. I wonder what it will take to remove that ignorance and bigotry. I guess we have to keep on telling the story for that one day when the message finally gets through.

  3. James Coltham
    James Coltham 3 May 2012

    A touching story, Karen, and a fitting contribution to BADD2012. It reminds me of similar experiences watching a loved one wrestle with M.E. (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) – a devastating condition who would creep up and suddenly incapacitate her with almost no warning. M.E. has a horrible history of denial, even in the medical profession, and many sufferers have faced accusations of “faking it”, or had their condition cruelly described as the “yuppie disease”. It’s regrettable that many people seem unable to understand or empathise unless they see suffering close to home, and so readily assume the worst of people.

    I echo your plea for more respect – and actually, that’s really not that much to ask!

  4. GirlWithTheCane
    GirlWithTheCane 9 May 2012

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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