A fairly common reaction that I get when resetting a dislocation in public – especially if I’ve needed to be helped – is “Ergh, I don’t want to see that”, often fairly closely followed by “I have no idea how you do that, I’d be screaming”.
If it’s a complex reset, the kind where extra hands might be needed (The classic ones being when I need compression over the shoulder during a scapulothoracic, or someone to support my leg in a femoral), even when someone has offered to help without being asked they’ll often become squeamish and feel the need to remind me that this is ugly, grisly, body-horror type stuff.
Trust me, I know.
If I could speak to all of these people, friends and acquaintances and complete strangers, I’d have a couple of things to say.
First, I would say that I didn’t volunteer to live in this body. It’s not by some miracle of constitution that I don’t find it unsettling and stomach-turning, it’s practise. It’s the knowledge that if I do just stare at my leg, as my foot goes blue and my arse goes numb and I lose the ability to control it, things are going to be worse, so I have to bite the bullet and try to fix it before the muscle spasms get so bad that I can’t do it alone. It’s the knowledge that when my clavicle crawls up my throat in the middle of the night, I can either pull it back down, or choke to death before the ambulance arrives.
Second, I would say that it hurts to have constant reminders that not only is my body’s behaviour painful and upsetting to me, it’s also unacceptable to other people. I know it might make you feel a little bit queasy watching me putting myself back together (Two of the comments in my first 20 views of the glenohumeral reset video were people saying “Ick, I couldn’t watch the whole thing it was so gruesome”, neither passed moderation) but if that’s the case – Don’t watch the video, look away if I do it in front of you, or at least have the decency to not tell me. Accept that you can deal with your squeamishness on your own, and that you don’t need me to soothe you with an “Oh, sweetie, I know, it’s horrible isn’t it? Ick yuck, my body is disgusting”, because your one-time discomfort at having to see something unusual is pretty much eclipsed by my having to reassure people a dozen times a day that they are perfectly normal to be disgusted by my body, because my body is disgusting.
It’s not always that blatant. Sometimes it’s just a wince from a bystander to which I’ll respond with “sorry”. Sometimes it’s an “Oh you poor duck, that made me feel ill, must be so much worse for you”. Sometimes it’s an outright “That was like something out of a horror film!”
It always gently chips away at my self esteem.
The solution is simple – If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. And anything that on any level suggests that someone else’s body is sickening is not a nice thing to say.