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Related: On standing up, but not for myself.

On Friday last, there was a period of six or so hours during which there was quite a lot of pain in my right arm. Just about everything from my little finger to my upper arm was aching or full of shooting pains or some such.

Unfortunately, that afternoon I had to meet someone new in a professional setting, and etiquette in this culture required that I shake her hand. On the way over, I thought about what I would do. Of course, I could always just refuse. I imagined saying, ‘sorry, I can’t, my right arm’s in quite a lot of pain.’

Of course, when I got there, she held out her hand and I shook it. I cradled my arm afterwards and made pain faces when she had her back turned and berated myself for not taking care of myself.

And as totally ridiculous as it seems to me, looking back, my decision simultaneously makes absolute sense. Because that’s the kind of stigma disabled people face. I actually had to consider whether I preferred physical pain or a probable moment of awkwardness, perhaps a bad reaction. More than that, I chose the former. Because all those memories of ‘what’s wrong with you?’ or losing status or having my disability loudly referred to were just more painful than that pain that gripped my arm for so many hours.

It was better to adhere to social convention.