Be Patient With Me, I’m a Slow Walker

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by Young Lee |

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When I was in college, Facebook groups and communities with names like “I want to punch slow walkers in the head” or “Slow walkers deserve to be kicked” were pretty trendy. Several of my friends joined such groups and proudly displayed their memberships on their profile pages. Such was the culture on Facebook in the late 2000s, when “edgy” and sarcastic humor was commonplace, at least among immature college kids.

I don’t think many members of these groups were ever intentionally mean-spirited or ableist, but I do believe there’s an ableist element to such “jokes.” Nevertheless, I’ve recently realized that these jokes still sit in the back of my mind, festering and ready to make me feel self-conscious, because I, like many other folks with Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease, can be a bit of a slow walker. 

I had not realized the extent to which being a slower walker bothered me until the realization hit me last week.

I got in an elevator with a handful of others — my first elevator ride since the pandemic started. As we started to move, I realized I was closest to one of the two doors. I quietly prayed, for the sake of my ego, and perhaps for the sake of everyone involved, that the door farthest from me would open when the elevator arrived at ground level.

I didn’t want to draw the ire of my fellow passengers by leaving first, only to get in everyone’s way. No one wants to feel like a burden or an obstacle.

To some folks, perhaps it seems silly to get worked up over what may sound like, at most, a slight inconvenience. And yet, these are still the thoughts that come to mind whenever I step into an elevator, walk down a tight alley, or end up in a fast-moving queue. I feel like I’m part of a footrace I never signed up for.

Begrudgingly, I’m adding my walking pace to the growing list of things I’m realizing I’m deeply self-conscious about because of CMT. At times I feel like this is, by and large, the CMT experience: trying to take my grief over fading abilities and lost strength in stride, and with good humor.

I continue to work on this. In the meantime, it’s important to recognize my current abilities — what I can and can’t do — while understanding that it’s not a reflection on my worth. I remember to step aside, let others pass, and not take the grumbles of those who pass me too personally.

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Note: Charcot-Marie-Tooth News 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 Charcot-Marie-Tooth News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

Comments

Martha Crotty avatar

Martha Crotty

Dear Mr. Lee - My husband wasn't diagnosed wit CMT until he was in his 70s. Throughout his childhood, he was teased for his "clumsiness" and encouraged to "try harder" at everything to do with his legs. He was a slow walker, didn't walk until he was nearly 3. He got through high school with some good friends who didn't expect him to be super athlete. He was drafted and made it through basic training somehow. He started running after that, and ran many 5K races - always very slowly. He walked EVERYWHERE all his life with his "funny" walk. When we got married, I walked with him and we walked together (him with a cane, then a walker, wearing his braces as he reached his 70s). He died 4 years ago and I miss him every day. You are slow, but brave, and you will go far (maybe slowly, but far!!)

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