It’s inevitable. Nearly everyone is going to be curious why you use a wheelchair. “Was it something you were born with?” “Did you have an accident?” And the juiciest, most ballsy-ist follow-up question of all, “How did your accident happen?” I just hate it when strangers ask this. Only friends are allowed to ask this quite personal question. I just wish the rest of the world also agreed.
Unfortunately, when you use a wheelchair you’re considered an open book. You’ll have strangers accost you with “What happened to you?” more than you would like, but this is a reality of wheelchair life. There are ways to not let it emotionally rile you. After all, you don’t wanna roll around being angry, lashing out at the next person who asks.
Or sometimes you can be worried about seeming over-dramatic as you tell your story. It can be strange telling your story. You sometimes feel like a movie director telling a tall tale, even though you obviously aren’t. There are ways however to explain your injury without discomfort or worry, and instead help you emanate a cool ease. See what I mean below.
I have listened to a lot of injury stories, whether it’s on YouTube or from someone in-person, and a lot of times the person goes more in-depth than is needed. I’ve been guilty of this many times in the past. Sometimes people ask what happened, but they don’t necessarily want a play-by-play account of the injury day. They just want to know the cause of injury.
Simple one to two word answers like “car accident,” “diving accident” or “sports injury” suffice. If they ask for more details, then further explain, but always start with the cause first, and then feel them out.
If you’re at a party and your story leans on the “OMG what?!” sad side, it may be wise to tone it down. Sometimes a crazy 911-story isn’t quite the time, even though there’s an idiot asking you in the first place. This is when I’ll add a few details to my injury story. Why not? You can make your story cooler, especially when the stranger is really annoying.
Add a James Bond element, like you jumped out of an airplane and your shute broke, or you were an amazing downhill skier close to making it to the Olympics, but failed in an epically bad run. It sounds better than a car accident any ways. You can save your real injury story for someone you actually know.
Assume They Lack Any Injury-Related Jargon
When you explain a spinal cord injury, it’s a good idea to use as many lay-terms as possible. If you start using technical terms like incomplete or complete, cervical or thoracic, no one is going to have any idea what you’re talking about. When in doubt, always assume your audience are kids. This way you can ensure your listeners are actually following you.
Ask Something Personal Back
And for your own sanity, if a stranger has the audacity to ask why you’re in a wheelchair before asking anything else, you too have the same license with them. Since you can’t ask the same question if they don’t have an injury, a good question that is just as personal is, “What’s your favorite sexual position?” It may sound crass, but if you want them to experience what it’s like to be taken aback by a highly personal question, I can’t think of anything better.
Let me be clear – it blows my mind to this day how many crazy ways people get injured. The stories that exist out there are amazing, but by default they’re also incredibly sad, which is why at the end of the day this question needs to be reigned in and respected. Let’s hope one day the world soon gets it; please God? In the meantime, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
How do you tell your injury story?
Photo courtesy of Flickr