Dear Haters

Jamie Tripp Utitus
Written by
Jamie Tripp Utitus

I’ve written to you before, but I have learned so much more over the past four years that I have lived with MS. You are the people whose assumptions, actions or comments make me feel badly about myself. I feel judged, or let down, misunderstood or even just plain forgotten. But I have recently learned that MS is a tricky adversary and can make you feel lonely and isolated. It can block and really mess with your own perspective. That is why I am writing to you again, because I am not completely sure if it is you or me. Am I oversensitive? Insecure? Or just feeling plain guilty? I am trying hard to be older and wiser and willing to take some responsibility here, but there are still so many times that I feel your hot stare.

The other day I walked my friend Willie to his car and 3 joggers stopped and watched us. Willie didn’t have his cane. He is a proud man at times and if he comes for a celebration, he leaves it in his car. He has lived with MS for over 20 years and is far more unstable than I. So I walk him, arm-in-arm, to his car. We are unsteady. We lean on other. You can gawk and stare, but let me say this—we are NOT DRUNK. We have MS.

To the people in the stores, sighing because I’m walking slowly on linoleum, it is because it scares me. It feels like I’m falling. I am not being thoughtless. I have trouble walking. In fact, I am being brave because I know some people will always be behind me on those shiny floors acting exasperated like I am part of a larger conspiracy to make them late. I wonder if wearing a T-shirt or sign that says, “I Have MS and that is why I am Inconveniencing You” might temper your response.

To the people who look at me when I park in a handicapped spot, I do have a handicapped placard. Trust me, I’d rather not. I wish I had the ability to walk a football field in the heat with 2 kids to get into a store. But I don’t. So deal with it. And to the lazy people who have full use of their bodies, but are just “too busy” and use the handicap spot illegally, just know that I am a strong believer in Karma!

I may sound angry, but I am actually just hurt. I guess I have come to a place that I no longer care. You can think what you want. I know what I am doing and why. I know I am not cheating a system. I know I still fight every day to change the world. I advocate, and I write and I speak, and I make it happen.

A wise man, Deepak Chopra, once said, “One of the keys to happiness is this—what people think of you is none of your business.”

His words hold true for me, and help me to get past other people’s assumptions. I know, deep down, people do not mean to make me feel inadequate. I suspect they do not even know that I view them this way. I am trying to be more empathetic, and not take these incidents so harshly, so that I am not as vulnerable to their stares and comments. I am trying not to make their thoughts (whether real or imagined) my business.

But I do think this is why building awareness of the many daily issues that we people with MS face is so important – because it is hard for people to be compassionate about things they truly do not understand.

Do you ever feel judged or hated on? How do you handle it? Share with us on our Facebook page.

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