Tuesday, May 11, 2004

I am suddenly, inexplicably exhausted, so I apologize in advance if this is incoherent.

Here's an article from the Washington Post about vertigo. I am immensely bitter about this. This person's vertigo is no more interesting than mine. In fact, it's less interesting than mine, as hers is not accompanied by iritis, a weird rash, odd blood tests, strange autoimmune symptoms, and a diagnosis so obscure that most doctors have no idea what it is. And yet she got some money and a perfectly good clip out of her boring old vertigo. How come I didn't think about writing something for the health section?

Maybe I could write about this. It has become clear to me that there are some serious drawbacks to having an invisible disability. (I'm still getting used to thinking of the vertigo as a disabiity. But I'm starting to think that, at least as long as I have it pretty much all the time, it is one. At least, it's getting in the way of my living my life, and that seems to be one of the definitions of a disability.) I'm not saying that it's a great thing to have a visible disability. My oldest friend has cerebral palsy, and being visibly disabled has always been a huge pain in the ass for her. People tend to take one look at her and assume that she's all sorts of things that she patently is not: stupid, passive, incompetent, sweet, brave (she's actually pretty intrepid, but brave means something much smaller and more condescending), etc., etc., etc. People stare. They ask rude questions. Or they don't ask the rude questions, and those questions just hang unspoken in the air. In a lot of ways, it really stinks to be visibly disabled.

But it also stinks to look normal. Today I got told off by a security guard for trying to go through a disabled entrance at the hospital where, ironically enough, I was diagnosed with the condition that makes it necessary for me to use the disabled door. The hospital has a big revolving door, which all the non-disabled people are supposed to go through, and a nice, normal automatic door for disabled people. Revolving doors and vertigo are not a happy combination. It's hard enough to walk in a straight line when your brain thinks you're simultaneously spinning and tilting upwards. It's really difficult to turn correctly while your body thinks it's turning on a totally different axis. So I headed over to the disabled door, and the guard yelled at me "you're not allowed to go through that door. It's for disabled people."

I, of course, expecting people to be reasonable, said "I have vertigo, and it's hard for me to manage the revolving door." But I forget that most people don't know what vertigo is. The security guard clearly either didn't know or didn't care, because he glared at me and yelled louder, so that lots of people turned and stared "it's only for disabled people. USE THE REVOLVING DOOR."

So I did, because I was flustered and people were staring at me and I couldn't figure out how to make myself clear. I've since come up with a little spiel about how I have a balance disorder that makes it difficult to walk, and while it doesn't look like I'm disabled, my balance disorder does in fact qualify. And if he has a problem with that, I'll give him the name of my doctor and he can give me the name of his supervisor and we can all have a little chat about whether I should be able to use the disabled door and who gets to make that call. I almost went back so I could give him that spiel, but I decided that would be pathetic. And I'm not sure it would even be credible, because I did manage to grip the side of the revolving door and make it out without banging into anything or anyone. Thank goodness for small victories.

So anyway, I'm halfway tempted to start carrying around a cane, just so I'll be able to avoid revolving doors without getting yelled at. Actually, I'm tempted to start carrying a cane so I can beat the shit out of obnoxious security guards who don't realize that you can't always see people's physical challenges. You'd think this would be the kind of thing they'd cover in security-guard training at a fucking hospital, wouldn't you?

I'm glad you made it into the building OK. I would have been sad to learn that the revolving door ended up posing problems for you. And I think you should have given him your speil.
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