I find airport newsstands alluring. I am drawn toward the litany of books. Shelves of colorful covers beckon to me, bestsellers emblazoned with enticing accolades. I need those books, I tell myself, so I buy two.
Fortunately, my shallow criteria are confined to airport literature.
Life most certainly imitates art. Façades cannot capture the totality of a person’s essence. Our beauty and depth lie within our pages, yet our covers invite conjecture and judgment.
My exterior is a window dressing. There are days when my window is nicely done — my hair is brushed and lip gloss shines around my smile. I meet the societal “norm”; my essence shines brightly through my window. On days like these, people cannot fathom why I use a handicapped placard. I have been approached and questioned; I have had nasty notes left on my windshield; I have been called names and brought to tears.
More often than not, however, my window reveals the effects of secondary progressive MS. My foot drop and gait draw uncertain stares. A baseball hat and sunglasses hide the pain and fatigue my eyes would otherwise give away. My cane elicits sympathetic offers of assistance. I fight to be normal, but ultimately, I am different. My essence is occluded by the curtains of disease.
MS does not define who I am or what I can do, but I am judged all the same.
Recently, I used a handicapped restroom stall, as I needed the grab bar. A woman glared at me as I exited, scolding me by saying that handicapped restrooms are to be saved for those who need it. My window dressing was pretty that day. She remained silent as I limped away.
It is human to assume, but we must stop short of stigmatizing. In doing so, we place limits on another person’s potential. We also place limits on our ability to see past the window. We confine our minds and create all sorts of biases.
I certainly had preconceived notions about people with disabilities until I became one. I am not the person I was prior to diagnosis; in fact, I would say that because of MS, I am a better person. My heart has grown. I am kind and unassuming. I am patient and empathetic. I am nonjudgmental and open. I have learned to not judge a book by its cover.
The window is only a sound bite. It is one note of a beautiful opera. It is the prologue to our story. It is our cover.
Open the book.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.