Please respect people’s boundaries

Today we had to go to two grocery stores. On Wednesday night I took a new Vitamin D supplement. I had previously been taking lots of supplements, but one of them was making me nauseous so I stopped them all and have been adding them back one by one to see which one was making me unwell. So Wednesday night I added back Vitamin D. Thursday morning I got very ill (in a non-respiratory way). I know it was the supplement because I hadn’t been anywhere in 9 days and the only thing I did outside of my normal routine was take that supplement.

I had to cancel my doctor appointment for that day, and we were unable to go to Publix like we had planned to take advantage of some really good sales on some things we like to stock up on.

(Sorry no pictures today. We wanted to get through the stores quickly and get home to rest, so we didn’t spend any time taking pictures.)

When I am ill, I like this ginger, lemon, and honey drink from Earth Fare. It just has those ingredients plus water in it, and helps settle my stomach a lot. Well, I drank one and a third bottles of it yesterday! Luckily that had me feeling better by the afternoon. But we only had two bottles of it in stock in our house, and I woke up really nauseous this morning, too.

I drank more of the drink and felt loads better, but knew I needed to get more. Since I was feeling OK and we didn’t have much to get at the stores, we decided to get a few things at Publix, then head over to Earth Fare for more of my drink.

I decided to use the scooter-carts the stores have instead of bringing my wheelchair because I didn’t want to over-tire myself by lifting the chair in and out of the trunk, I wanted trunk space to put the groceries, and it is nice to have a basket on your device instead of having a hand basket and a service dog on my lap.

We headed to Publix first. The store cart was SO SLOW!!!! Seriously I felt like I was practically standing still instead of moving around the store! Luckily I was able to tell Brad the things we needed, and he zipped around getting them and bringing them back to my basket. A few kids in Publix got excited to see a dog, but their parents hushed them and told them it was a working dog. I try whenever I hear parents doing this to do some sort of interaction with the kids or parents as a reward. So today I felt like not interacting with adults, but I didn’t mind interacting with kids so I’d smile and wave at the kids.

When we went to Earth Fare, it was a totally different ballgame. We got through most of the store without any comments (but we were pretty fast—as fast as my cart allowed, which was faster than the Publix cart!).

When we got to the checkout, it was suddenly crowded. As we were checking out, a woman came up behind me and leaned over and put her hand on my back and practically shouted in my ear (at least that’s what it felt like since she was RIGHT next to my hearing aid) asking if we needed any help getting our bags out to the car. Mind you, at this point Brad was putting bags on the back of his wheelchair. I said no thanks, and she stayed right there (I couldn’t move because I had to be able to reach the pay thing and backing up in store carts is nearly impossible) and tried to argue with me about how happy they’d be to help me etc etc etc. I finally convinced her we were fine.

Unfortunately, without realizing it’s what they’re doing, some people treat others as opportunities to do a good deed and feel better about themselves. It’s really great to want to help, but there are all sorts of reasons why your help might not be welcome. If you want to respect others’ humanity, ask people whether they want help without pressure, be prepared to accept a “no”, and ask them how it would be best to help.

Soon after the person trying to be helpful, a man came up behind me and said to the person he was with, “I’m 99% sure that’s a Pekingese”. I was trying to manage paying, so even though I could hear him with my hearing aids, I chose to ignore him. Brad responded in a joking way, though, and said that it was good he left that 1% because it was a Japanese Chin LOL.

We were almost free from the store, just getting our last few items bagged up, when another man came by and said I had a beautiful Shih Tzu. I didn’t feel like interacting, so I just said “Thanks” and went back to what I was doing. But then the guy started talking to me about how Shih Tzus behave so I had to tell him Hestia is a Japanese Chin. Then he wanted to show me pictures of his dog on his phone. All while I’m trying to get bags into my basket. I told him his dog was cute, and he finally left us alone.

Now I am happy that people seeing Hestia makes them happy. I like it when people smile at us! I don’t mind if people talk about us to their companions so long as they aren’t rude. But I strongly dislike being touched, yelling in my ear, and trying to converse with me when I’m obviously busy (like in the line at a store). I don’t mind too much if people feel inspired by us as a disabled couple so long as they don’t tell us that we’re inspiring (merely for existing—rather than…not?). I don’t mind being asked if I need help, but I do mind if people pressure me after I’ve said no.

Many of these things seem obvious to me, but I know that most of the abled people out there just act without knowing or trying to imagine how they would feel like if they were the one using a mobility device or a service dog. And it isn’t something you can understand by pretending you are disabled—like wearing a blindfold for an hour, or using a wheelchair for a week. Your attitude can be totally different when it’s your normal and you learn to adapt.

One example involves Brad opening doors in his power wheelchair. When he’s doing well, he’s really good at opening doors and going through (or letting me through first). It’s really common for him to be easily opening a door and someone who genuinely wants to be helpful rushes in to grab it from him. He doesn’t want to be a bad-will ambassador for wheelchair users, but it’s very for him to feign or perform the expected gratefulness when they’re disrupting his autonomy.

But how are they to know, right? Well, we know our friends and family members who read this blog actually want to be good people, and this requires learning throughout your life how to better respect others who aren’t exactly like you. So we’ll just review the easy solution that kind of applies universally.

Don’t rush in to make a disabled person’s everyday experience be about you feeling better. Do “just ask, don’t grab”. Like we said earlier, if you’re able to help and want to respect others’ humanity, ask people whether they want help without pressure, be prepared to accept a “no”, and ask them how it would be best to help. We try to be grateful for all the extensive help we receive that enables us to lead fulfilling lives, but our souls sing when the helpers out there treat us with dignity and autonomy.

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