“Who can handle stairs”

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed or been bothered by this, but it’s really starting to get to me.

I wish that we could stop making fun of celebrities and political figures when they struggle with ramps or stairs. I’ve been guilty of it, too, calling out the stumbles and near-falls with disbelieving laughter…I was wrong, too. Here’s why.

I have a disorder known as Chiari Malformation. It causes chronic pain issues, and other symptoms such as poor depth perception, poor balance especially when the light is low, dizziness, etc. I also have an ongoing issue with my breathing, so I often have to stop and catch my breath or rest after I move. I’m only 45 years old

When I hear – or make – these comments, what I’m saying is that someone who loses their balance on the stairs isn’t strong or vital enough to lead. They’ll be distracted by their infirmities, they’ll be forgetful and slow, they’re unhealthy. “Not Good Enough”. Then I see the video, see them stumble, remember that I did the same thing the other day…and I start to feel the same things about myself.

“I can’t be a good counselor, I’m always focused on my own pain and what my body is doing.” “I can’t let my clients see me struggle to stand up, I’ll lose credibility.” “Why did I wait so long to start a career? It’s so hard for me. I bet I didn’t learn even half of what my younger peers learned. They have so much energy.” “I’ll never be good enough to x,y,z.”

The truth is, people with handicaps and unnoticed illness can be every bit as healthy, strong and intelligent as everyone around them; maybe more so, because they have to fight against a body that’s battling them to be here with you and they can truly appreciate their space. We don’t suddenly lose intelligence when we add a few years, or can’t tell how deep or far away something is. And you shouldn’t be basing your opinion of me on whether or not I’m more likely to catch a cold.

There are so many things we can look at to decide if we agree with someone or not; foreign policy, domestic policy, humanitarian efforts, tact and diplomacy, past track record are just a few. It doesn’t need to be about a missed step or their age.

One thought on ““Who can handle stairs”

  1. This is very true. We all make assumptions on first seeing people, especially someone with a perceived infirmity. But with awareness, we can check ourselves and be open to the fact that things are not always how they appear. Never doubt your ability with counseling, your insight and empathy are spot on.


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