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August 08, 2007

No, It's Not The Same

This isn't IBARWy, but I had to post about this.

An article in Salon today about a woman with a learning disability that messes up her spatial relations:

The biggest problem with my problem is that other people think they have my problem. People get lost going to the airport. They make plans for Tuesday the 16th when the 16th is a Wednesday. It's not their disability, it's their life. Most people will claim they are "terrible with" something. Names, faces, tipping in restaurants. They expect no special concessions. Should I confess to the encumbered nature of my thinking, they're only too pleased to offer an "I know, I’m hopeless with maps too!" But if I try to emphasize the impenetrability of my particular brand of retardation, the commiseration comes to a grinding halt. I can see it in their eyes -- they think I should suck it up.

I get the same thing with low blood sugar. I don't think most people really know what that means. There's a huge, continental difference between being hungry and being in insulin shock. But when I try to explain to people that I'm in danger when my blood sugar drops, they always say, "Oh, I get that way, too!"

Get what way? You become irrational to the point of screaming at people for no reason? You can't pick things up because your hands are shaking so bad from the adrenaline? The lower half of your face goes numb? You lose depth perception? You pass out and go into epileptic-seeming convulsions, biting the inside of your cheek so hard that when you wake up, your shirt is covered with blood and you have short term memory loss? (Okay, I got most of that from a combination of movies about psychiatric patients being treated with insulin, and the blood sugar drop scene near the end of Leaving Las Vegas, but I have had convulsions.)

Funny thing is that another diabetic, or a hypoglycemic, would never say, "Oh, I get that way, too!"

I wonder why sympathy is out and empathy is so de rigeur these days. Or has it always been that way? I'm perfectly happy with people just listening to me tell them about something they don't already know, and then giving me a pitying smile and cutting me some slack. Why don't y'all do that?


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