Chronic Musings · Uncategorized

Meeting New People

Starting something new and knowing that you’re going to be meeting a lot of new people – people that you’re going to spend a lot of your time with for a week, a month, a year – is always tough. We worry about how people are going to view us and feel like we need to make a good first impression, or risk being friendless for however long we’re going to be there.

But it’s especially tough when you have medical issues that you’re going to need to explain. You might not need to talk about them straight away; you could leave talking about it for as long as possible -which is always preferable of course, you’re not going to want to start a conversation about your disability as soon as you come face to face with a new person, what if they think that you’re being attention-seeking? What if they decided then and there that you’re going to require too much work? But sometimes you might need to. We, as humans, have an inherent need to be liked and always fixate on something that might impede upon our ‘likeability factor’. Just know that everyone everyone does it – someone might be particularly worried about whether their fashion choices come across well, whether they remembered to put on perfume, if they’ll find someone with the same likes as them… It’s just how people work.

I started at college this week, and knew that I’d be facing loads of new people; this is the first time I’ve been in a situation where absolutely no one knows me or has experienced me having a seizure, no one knows that some days I can walk, some days I can’t even get from my bed from the bathroom. Never have I ever wished so hard that I could just shrug off my medical conditions. But the truth is that you can’t. I wanted to wait as long as I could before addressing what I considered to be one of the most alienating things possible – I’ve had plenty of experiences where people immediately decide that I don’t actually need a wheelchair and that I’m just doing it for the sake of laziness, I’ve had people tell me they’d rather I didn’t go somewhere with them, and I’ve been denied a place at my top choice university – all because of a disability that I’ve never asked for or had a choice in how it affects me.

I wanted to go at least a day without saying anything – I was using my wheelchair and figured that people would just accept that I use a wheelchair, and I’d let them think that I did so all of the time. Seizures were a little trickier. I’d gone in my wheelchair that day with the hope that it might help to curb my seizures – anxiety is a pretty common cause of my floor dances, and I was feeling a lot of it! I was playing quite a dangerous game – do I tell them about my seizures before I have one and possibly not have one for weeks after I’ve told them, or do I risk leaving it for a day and potentially have one before they knew? It’s very hard to judge, and I seemed to make the wrong choice. Of course, I threw myself to the floor and wobbled about in front of a class full of people who had no idea what was going on (except for the teachers, of course) I know that they were all only concerned and that no one was judging me at all, but that really didn’t stop me from feeling utterly humiliated. I know, I know that I shouldn’t feel that way when I have a seizure, but the truth is that, unfailingly, I do. Once everyone had calmed down and I’d had a private word with one of the tutors, I sat down and the tutor spoke to the class about my crippled side.

Judging when to tell new people about medical conditions is something that a lot of people have to do. We worry about what someone will say, we don’t want to be labelled as ‘that girl that has seizures and uses a wheelchair’ and we don’t want to come across as self-obsessed. I was waiting for a flood of judgement and embarrassed stares after the tutors’ speech, but they didn’t come. No one looked at me as she was speaking, no one whispered, no one looked affected in the slightest. And that was the best thing that they possibly could’ve done really. Of course, you can’t guess how people will react, but you’re (pretty much always) going to be expecting the worst – whether you’re telling them about your crippledness, or wondering if they might exile you for wearing the wrong shoes. There’s always a chance that the worst could happen, which is while we fixate on it, but the truth is that it’s unlikely people will bat an eyelid – they’re more worried about what people are thinking of them.

8 thoughts on “Meeting New People

  1. Gosh that brought tears to my eyes. You are right of course EVERYONE worries to some degree about going somewhere new and particularly meeting new people. You have such a good attitude though, honest, straightforward and with a delightful sense of humour that I am sure it wont take you long to make new friends. Hoping things get easier for you now that dreaded first day is over.

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  2. I am SO sorry that you had to go through such a tough experience in your first week. The experience is over at hopefully there is weight off your shoulders as to if and when you would have to explain your medical conditions. You are such a bright light and inspiration in so people’s lives that you do not know. I know that you make many friends and they will see the real Harriet not your conditions (if they are intelligent), an AWESOME person full of so many talents!

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  3. I’m so proud of you! You faced an incredible challenge knowing what could happen. I can see where you would be embarrassed whether it’s logical or not. You are an amazing young woman who has endured so much in your young life. Yet you live your life to the fullest with an incredible attitude. Reading your blog and watching your vlogs brightens my day!!! You are an inspiration to people with chronic illnesses and physical challenges!!! I know I’m no one in your life, but I wanted you to know this observer commends you!!!

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  4. Once again Harriet you have brought a tear to my but also a smile to my face with your ‘floor dancing’ comment. Unfortunately, all too often people are judgemental without knowing the full facts. I hope that now the anxiety of your first day has passed you will continue to develop and flourish. You are truly inspirational and your artistic talent is amazing! Much love xxx😘💜😘xx

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  5. Harriet
    I’m so glad that you have made it past your first week and it’s trials. I hope you flourish at university and makes loads of new friends as you have in life and on the internet. You are so encouraging and so articulate about what you face. You are such a treasure. You keep plugging a way at making the life you want in spite of hindrances most of us want to count you as a friend. You remind me of when I was younger and people would wonder a loud how I kept on and I would ask if they new where I could go to resign as an alternative. You are choosing a life you want ,which always an inspiration. Much love Cindy

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  6. Starting uni is a challenge for everyone (I still remember my first day) and I can only imagine how much worse that might be if you are perceived as ‘different’. However, as your experience demonstrates uni is also a place where there is a greater level of maturity than school. People have begun to know themselves and have embraced their sense of character. There are fewer ‘cool cliques’ and as follows as greater acceptance of difference, whether that is in the form of a disability, opinions or simply a unique dress sense.

    I hope you have the most wonderful and memorable few years where the positives far outweigh any negatives. I look forward to following your journey and your makes 🙂

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  7. Harriet, you touch so many people with your openness and bright spirit. It is only a matter of time before your classmates realize what a privilege it is to be in class with you! My years in college (U.S. vernacular for “uni”, I think?) were some of the best times of my life, and I know it will be the same for you! Most of my current best friends were people I met there, who walked with me through all the highs and lows, and I did the same for them. I am very excited for you and just know it will be a brilliant experience! Congratulations on the opportunity, and thank you for sharing such a tender story, as others said you brought tears to my eyes and although I feel bad that the seizure happened on your first day, I am so proud of how you handle everything with such grace and courage, you are my hero!

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  8. Congratulations Harriet, we’re both sure you will do really well in the future. It takes a lot of courage to start out on something new even without the added problems you have to surmount. Good luck , we hope to see you soon, Brenda and Keith xxx

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