By Tammie Allegro
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”
- The SPEED of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey
Going to Disneyland as a family quickly became our favorite thing to do last year when we decided to splurge and buy annual passes. It was a decision that provided the best summer ever for my daughters, as well as a lot of great memories for our family. A few months back, we decided to go on our last visit because our passes were about to expire. Knowing it was our last trip, we decided to make the best of it and stay as long as we could. Considering I have fibromyalgia, I knew it wasn’t going to be as long as my 9-year-old would hope for, but I was determined to do my best and suck it up for my girls.
After about four hours at the park, every part of my body was hurting. I knew leaving would break my girls’ hearts, but I also knew they would understand. Unfortunately, I am one of those moms (aren’t we all) who just can’t stand to disappoint her kids. So I decided to put my pride aside and get a wheelchair. I had planned on getting the motorized one because there was no way my daughters would be able to push me around all day. Well, just my luck, they were all out of motorized wheelchairs. At that moment, my oldest who is 19 said: “Mom, I will push you.” I got a little teary eyed for a million reasons and decided to go ahead and get wheeled around by my sweet girls. Part of me felt ashamed of needing their help, while feeling so proud that they would offer such a sacrifice. I am not a small woman, and it was definitely a challenge for all of us.
Within minutes of sitting in the chair, we were back on track in our quest for the happiest day ever at the happiest place on earth. Then, I realized that people were staring at me. I could tell that many of them were judging me, and I started to feel really uncomfortable. I even found myself imagining the conversations they were having in their minds. “Why is she pretending?” “She must be lazy.” “Who would make their kid push them around the park all day?” “She should lose weight, and then she could walk.” Before I knew it, my happiest day was turning into a nightmare. I was brought to tears and found myself wanting to leave and go home and hide. There were moments that were even more embarrassing, like the time my youngest had to go to the restroom while we were in line for a ride, and I was left on my own to move my own wheelchair. Again, I felt judged.
Noticing my tears, my daughters asked why I was so upset. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was being judged and was embarrassed, so I just said it was the pain. After one of the last rides of the day, I noticed a man in a wheelchair who didn’t look like he was hurt in any way. He was using one of the handicap-accessible entrances to the ride. I found myself wondering if he was using the wheelchair to get ahead in line. Then it dawned on me: I was doing the same thing to him that I thought everyone had been doing to me all day. It was in that moment that I realized not every person I encountered that day was judging me. Some were, but most weren’t. Instead, I was taking my insecurities out on them. I was judging me, and I was judging everyone we saw that day.
That trip humbled me in so many ways. I finally had to accept that my life now isn’t the life it was before I got sick or the life I had planned on having. I don’t get to be the super-energetic person who has stamina to spare. Instead, I am the woman who makes it through her work week and is lucky to have the strength to do laundry on Saturday. I won’t be throwing giant birthday parties and working on cakes till midnight on a work night. Instead, I will keep the gatherings simple and buy cakes if I have to. I am a person who is loved and supported by my family and close friends. I don’t need to judge myself so harshly, and I should never assume that someone else is thinking bad thoughts about me.
When have you felt judged about your illness? Have you ever wrongly judged someone else?