THE BLOG

When Is It OK To Laugh At People With Disabilities?

06/02/2017 13:39

I think we all know the answer to that question, it's NEVER ok. Yet every day I see images on social media that people share that make fun of a person either by the way they look (I'm sure you've all seen those awful "tag 'name', I've been looking for him" images) or by a disability they may have. Some people that share these are genuinely the loveliest people I know and I know they would never intentionally laugh at a person with a disability, they're just not thinking of the person behind the picture.

But one image I saw on Facebook this morning hit home.

Firstly this is not an attack on the person that shared it, people sharing these things is so normal these days, I'm sure they would never intentionally laugh at a disability and I know they would never have posted it knowing that it would cause anyone distress but sadly it did, it started with anger, anger that made my heart beat so hard that it felt like it was trying to break out of my chest, this then set off a mini panic attack, something I haven't experienced in many years, then came the tears, sobs that ripped out of my heart so hard that I was close to vomiting. What was this picture that could set off such a horrific response? It was an image of Michael J Fox and it had been blurred to make fun of the fact that he can't stop moving, why did it affect me? My 37 year old fiancé was diagnosed with Parkinson's in September 2015, the same disease that MJ Fox was diagnosed with when he was just 29.

I get it, people don't understand Parkinson's, it's just a condition that makes you shake right? Wrong, sadly very very wrong. The thing with Parkinson's is that there is no one box fits all label, each sufferer will experience different symptoms. The obvious one that everyone knows is the uncontrollable shakes but then there's the anxiety and depression, the stomach problems, the tightness of the muscles that cause spasms and physical pain, facial masking where a persons facial expressions no longer show, the inability to walk properly, not to mention the side effects from the medication, the list goes on and on and varies from person to person. It's a degenerative disease, which means the suffering gets worse and worse every year.

Imagine training to be a neurosurgeon, all those years in university, all of the student loans and a few years after qualifying your hand starts to shake and you can no longer do the job you dreamed of.

Imagine your children going to school upset because they've seen you get upset struggling to put your t-shirt on.

Imagine you're self employed but can no longer work in your current profession but because of your new disability no one will hire you.

Imagine watching your child get married but your face not showing the emotion that you hold inside. Imagine you're unable to physically walk that child down the isle.

Still a laughing matter?

Did you know Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson's before he took his own life?

All of our hopes and dreams for the future are gone, simply because we have no idea what the future holds, there is currently no cure for Parkinson's and no one can tell us what to expect, we just have to take each day as it comes. But I am thankful, as debilitating as Parkinson's is, it's not life shortening and we are fighting, fighting with everything we have because this awful disease will not bring us down. While my partner was going through the diagnosis process, we were losing a very much loved family member to cancer, going through both awful diseases with different outcomes puts things in to perspective. So our plans of travelling may turn to cruises, our house may turn to a bungalow, we will adapt because staying positive is the only thing we have.

All I want from this blog is for people to think before they share. My reaction this morning was maybe an over reaction? I don't know, it's not happened to me before. If you or your family have been through something terrible and life changing or you have someone with a disability in your family, imagine how you'd feel if you saw someone laughing at them? Because when I see people laughing at an image of MJ Fox, they may as well be laughing at my fiancé.

Please think before you share!

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