As someone living with fibromyalgia and gout, I am often trying to find ways to blend in and not draw attention to myself.

This week, I couldn’t do that.

A normal uric acid level is between 2.5 – 7.5 mg/dL. Mine was 10.3 mg/dL. This week’s gout flare up has felt like throbbing shards of glass in my big toe, with swelling so severe that I’ve had to wear shoes 2 sizes bigger than my usual size. I have a big purple bruise circling the base of my right big toe, despite the fact that I haven’t actually bumped it on anything. Gout pain is caused by tiny, sharp, painful uric acid crystals.

Today when I went grocery shopping, I knew I needed to use a motorized scooter. I rolled past a woman (presumably a mother/aunt/grandmother) and her girl pointed at me and loudly said, “THAT WOMAN IS OLD! LOOK! SHE’S USING THAT SCOOTER!”

Clearly, the woman she was with was mortified. The girl went on in a sing-song tone.


It didn’t matter that I needed something in that isle. I just wanted to drive my 32-year-old self far away from this 5-year-old bully. I could hear the woman explaining to the girl that it isn’t just old people who use the scooters, but that people with injuries use them, too.

Although I was glad that she set the kid straight, I still felt myself getting upset, because I really can’t stand that *attention for the wrong reasons* feeling.

Yes, today I appeared a little more handicapped than usual. Yes, I used a handicapped parking placard and used a motorized scooter to do my grocery shopping. But no, that’s not the end of my story:

I also found courage to leave my kitchen job (even though I have a college degree in culinary science) and worked my way up to becoming a real journalist. I care deeply for my loved ones. I am creative. I am silly. I know how to write anything using calligraphy. I am not just some handicapped person zooming around the grocery store on a scooter.

I suppose the girl’s comments got under my skin because I can’t stand feeling like some one-dimensional “old” handicapped person.

My point is this: handicapped people are just as multi-dimensional as anyone else. Let’s teach children to stop referring to people by their handicap.

And even if an individual with a handicapped placard isn’t using crutches or a cane, they likely have a handicap that you simply cannot see. That doesn’t make their ailment any less valid.

A person’s handicap does not define them.

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