Think About What You Think


What do you think when you see someone using one of the electric carts in a grocery store?

There’s a reason I’m asking.

I want you to be completely honest with yourself, and I’m not asking anyone to reveal anything to me or this blog or anything, but if you want to put your responses here, that’s okay with me too. I figure I’ll either get a lot of comments on this one or I won’t get any on it… sometimes people LIKE being honest, too honest, and other times, they prefer no one know the demons that lurk inside the mind, the words we don’t say, but each and every one of us thinks.

I have done it too… not only about this instance, but also about other things. We judge. We don’t mean to. Many of us don’t want to. But we do. We have to. I mean, this judging is an important part of being human, an important part of it. Without our ability to make quick, snap judgements, we would frequently put ourselves in danger. We are walking down a dark alley, we see a big, scraggly man who appears to have a weapon in front of us, and we judge him. We need to judge him. We see someone we don’t know acting a little cagey, and we lock the car doors before he gets close to the car. That’s judging him. He might be the most honest person in the world.

Judging is not bad. Judging is not wrong. We’re not condemning anyone to anything. We’re not acting like a jury and awarding a punishment. We are simply making a judgement call. We have to do that.

So we can’t fault ourselves too badly when we see someone and our brains inside our heads instantly make a snap judgement.

So when I ask you what you think when you see someone in the electric scooter carts in a grocery store, I don’t want to know what you convince yourself of afterward, what you think once you think about it, feel about it, whatever. I want to know your instant, snap judgement.

  • If you see that the person is elderly, you probably assume that is part of the reason they are in the cart.
  • If you see the person has a cane, a wrap around a leg, a cast, or some other obvious injury, you probably think it’s because of the injury.
  • If you see the person has no hair, is pale, looks weak or sickly, you probably assume they have cancer and are unable to walk for long distances because treatment and illness makes them weak.

And you would likely think these things, regardless of the weight of the person, if that person had a visible, easy to see, easy to understand physical ailment. The person in that cart could weight 500 pounds, and if they had no hair and were elderly or had a cast on their leg, you probably wouldn’t think twice.

But what if the person weighed 500 pounds and had no other obvious physical disability you could see? Would you assume, that is, would you judge, that they were in the cart because they were too heavy and/or too lazy to walk?

The reason I ask this today is multi-fold.

I’ve never been a super skinny person, but I used to be slender. I was always slender, never really fought too much with my weight when I was younger. Then I end up with thyroid problems and I gain some weight, and then I ended up with heart failure after the pulmonary embolisms damaged my heart, and the fluid retention has caused me to gain, from what my doctor tells me, about 70-100 pounds of fluid weight. This is called BNP – B-type Natriuretic Peptide. It’s something the brain signals the body to produce when the heart begins to fail, and it causes massive edema and fluid retention. I can gain and lose 60 pounds over the course of a few day’s time, literally. Like my skin is a balloon, it stretches and then gets smaller again as the edema fluctuates. My belly gets hard and rigid and full of fluid, and I get purple striations on my skin, similar to stretch marks but going in the opposite directions (instead of up and down, more side to side), and they aren’t as deep as stretch marks. I hate them, but whatever… can’t do much about it. The skin begins to lose elasticity, which then allows me to gain even more fluid retention the next time I get an attack/flare whatever it’s called.

Do I take meds for this? Yes, but they only can do so much and they only work so well. Doc says in a year or so, I should have this all under control, have the fluid mostly gone. I’ll be going to a lymphodema center soon to help me work with bringing the fluid down even more, but they can’t help me yet until the open wound in my leg, which is still about the size of a quarter or a little larger and is still about half an inch deep into the fatty tissue of my calf, is healed.

So in the meantime, I’m stuck. I look fat. I don’t always look sick. But I am sick, with pulmonary hypertension, making it nearly impossible for me to walk any distance without my sats dropping into the upper 70s or lowers 80s. I wouldn’t be able to be at a grocery store if I couldn’t be in a cart or a wheelchair. The carts are easier for me, because then *I* can shop instead of my family having to do everything for me.

And yet, I refuse anymore to use the carts in a grocery store.

And do you know why?

Because of something I read on Facebook the other day… of course, what I read had nothing to do with me in particular. It was said by someone who was a friend of mine on Facebook, but not someone I know well. And I felt this way before I read the comment too. BUT the comments epitomizes exactly what I feared, what I felt people thought.

Someone who had recently had surgery or an injury was using one of the carts in a store and with the cell phone, this person took a picture of themselves using it. Another commenter came along and said, “I thought there was a weight requirement for using the scooters in Walmart.”

Just to be sure no one misunderstands what this person meant, the commenter clarified it when someone else very legitimately misunderstood and said she didn’t know there was a weight limit. The comment was clarified to mean that, basically, you had to be FAT to use the scooters.

And that’s why I won’t use them. I guess, I feel that perhaps if they see me in the wheelchair, they are more likely to think I’m actually sick and need a wheelchair and less likely to think I’m just lazy and don’t want to walk. Even that bothers me, because I still fear that people think this. I suppose I’m lucky in that I still have the bruises on my arms from all the blood work and I still have the scars on my chest from the surgery… but what if I didn’t? What if I looked normal but was just in a lot of pain that day, or the edema had my chest so compressed I couldn’t breathe well. Or any other real medical reason…

….would people still think I was sick. Or would they think I was just fat and lazy?

Yes, I totally and completely realize that this is MY issue. It’s MY problem that I feel this way. It’s MY problem that I worry about what other people think. It’s MY problem that I have this body image issue with how I look right now.

But… if no one ever thought these things, if I had never heard anyone say it, seen anyone look or make nasty snide comments about people they saw in the carts. Had I not myself perhaps thought it a time or two, I wouldn’t be so worried about what others think of me.

So I’m taking full responsibility for my emotions here. I’m sharing this with my ‘blog friends’ about how I feel.

But at the same time, I do want to challenge you, as I have challenged myself, to reserve judgement. Sure, let your mind say whatever it needs to say to make the snap judgements we all need to survive, but then, take a moment and let your evolved and educated brain take a moment, just a moment, to tell yourself, What if this person is really sick? What if I’m wrong?

And then don’t send your negative energy out in that direction. Look, I was young and beautiful once. I never, ever thought I would look the way I look now. But I do. Don’t think for a single moment it can’t happen to you, because I swore it never would happen to me, and massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms that didn’t kill me (thank God!) later, and I’m alive, and so grateful for it, and I’m trying to learn that being alive and sick and overweight and filled with fluid with purple marks all over my skin that used to be so beautiful and smooth and soft… well, being alive is worth giving all that up, if I had to choose. Well, let’s say I’m still working on the emotional aspects of it, but I’m trying. I really AM grateful to be alive. I am.

Anyway, just rambling and babbling… but I hope you’ll just think about it, just for a moment, and realize that looks can be deceiving and you can’t possibly know. It’s all just assumptions and judgements. My point is, you don’t know. You have no idea why anyone is the way they are, and assuming… well, you know what that does to you. We laugh at the things we fear. We scorn and hate that which we’re afraid of becoming. There are more reasons behind a person’s appearance, attitude, looks, personality, emotions and life than we can possible imagine or even begin to think about when we see them for only a moment.

And what you say to them, around them, or where they can hear, or the way you look at them, or purposely don’t look at them, treat them, or comment or act around them does make a difference in their life–I know this, because it’s made a difference in mine and I’ve read and heard from others who have said the same thing, especially those with the ‘invisible illnesses’ that are so prevalent in our society and yet no less real or painful or troublesome to the sufferer. Not one single one of you would probably say anything other than positive, encouraging, supportive things if you knew it was me. How many of you though are absolutely certain that if you saw me and didn’t know it was me that you would respond the same way? I’m not even certain *I* would… and perhaps that’s part of why I worry and feel the way I do.

Thanks for listening… thank you even more if it made you think, even just a little bit. And even more if I made you CHANGE the way you think.

Love and stuff,

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8 Responses to “Think About What You Think”

  1. I have to agree with you that I’m human and pass judgement, but I never had judgement for people in scooters because many family members of mine, and myself included have had to use them from time to time.

    Now if you want my judgement about how I feel about being in one– that’s a different story. I hate them too and for a lot of the same reasons you do.

  2. Donna Thacker says:

    I know exactly how you feel Michy! I have COPD which makes it extremely hard to walk far in the heat or cold. The doctor wanted to give me a handicap placard so I could park closer to stores and I said “No way!” simply because my MIL had the same condition and had the placard. She didn’t really “look” sick so we got many looks and comments when we used the handicapped parking. I hope your blog really does make people think before they judge!

  3. Raian says:

    I guess I’m a little bit different. I usually say, “There but for the grace of God go I.” I also always say a prayer when an ambulance goes by me.

  4. cathy says:

    It’s one good thing that comes of having health issues that I’m a lot more understanding and less judgmental than I used to be.

    Really, I never gave it much thought as to why people used the electric carts in the stores. It never looked like a privilege, it never seemed fun or exciting, I never felt jealous. It looked to me like a huge pain in the ass, quite frankly, and I figured those people who used them HAd to use them, and what a drag to be them.

    So maybe I’m guilty of feeling pity.

    Not quite so for handicap parking. I felt like people abused the luxury of parking up close, denying seriously handicapped people the convenience.

    I still see people parking there who get out of the car looking a lot better than I do, but now I know better than to assume they are as well as they seem.

    After all, I look fine – especially to strangers.

    There are certainly days when saving a few steps into the store would be a huge deal for me, when it’s all I can do to go in and grab three or four things to make dinner tonight (and something easy at that).

    But I have not given in yet. Now, I feel damned privileged to be able to walk across the lot and through the aisles. I feel downright lucky to walk.

    And I’m sure there are people who abuse things like these, but it’s not for me to figure who really needs the assist and who is being lazy and inconsiderate. Personally I would never tempt karma that way.

    I have used the HC stall in a crowded airport restroom though. Some lady hollered at me… something rather nasty. I looked around and did not see anyone else heading for the stall, so I hollered out “Anyone here more disabled than me? I have a spinal injury, MS, and fibro.. If you can top that, you can pee first!”

  5. I don’t recall ever thinking anything bad about someone using those carts- just made sure the kid and I got out of their way or would try to help them get stuff.

    However, I do have to admit that if I wasn’t bald and hopefully obviously dealing with cancer I would be very self conscious about using them myself. People still give me that look – especially when I get out of the chair to get something- as if I am faking if I am able to walk a little.

    The weight comment that person made was awful. May karma come around and bite them in the ass.

  6. Angela says:

    I use them. I try to not go often and not when the most people will be there. Without them, however I could not go at all. I am heavy, but that’s only a part of the story. Mine goes back over 10 years to 3 surgeries in a row that took me down big time. If I only need to go abt 50′ or so, I’m good, but to walk around a large store is something I cannot do. My back seazes up and extreme pain ensues. So, if I have to shop, I have to use the carts. I’m working on getting off them. I don’t want to be on them. I doubt very much if any but a very small percentage would use them if they didn’t have to. Handicap plaquards – those have to be issued by a doctor – you can’t just go up and ask for them. You really can’t judge people by what you see.

    Thanks for sharing this. I agree it’s embarrassing and you wonder what people think. Do it any way if you need it! The only thing I see in others, however, is that I seem to be invisible to many. Some are very nice and helpful… Many others just walk around me, ignore me, … I’ve had to wait quite a few times on people who cut in front of me… Anyway. Thanks for sharing..

  7. Michael says:

    Huh. Frankly, I never thought the carts were specifically for obese people, but for the disabled (in one fashion or another).

    Bottom line though – don’t care what others think: if you need the cart, that’s why it’s there. The store invested in those carts with YOU in mind.

  8. theBarefoot says:

    Honestly, I don’t give someone in a scooter-cart a 2nd thought. Oddly, they don’t get in the way as much as ordinary shoppers who park in the middle of the aisle and start browsing. I even grabbed a scooter-cart once when a gout attack made it too painful to walk. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but I’ll bet I was being judged that day.

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