“I know what it’s like to be so self-conscious that you’re angry.” – Stacy London
I am a devoted fan of What Not To Wear and have been watching it for at least six years. I follow both Stacy London and Clinton Kelly on Facebook and Twitter. This morning, I clicked on a link Stacy posted on her Facebook about her psoriasis campaign called Uncover Your Confidence. The site has information about psoriasis, personal support from information advocates, listings of dermatologists who specialize in psoriasis, and personal messages from Stacy herself.
Stacy blends her own experience with information and offers people who suffer from psoriasis hope that their condition is manageable. The physical, psychological, and emotional pain psoriasis has caused her was evident in her expressions and her tone of voice (and the personal nature of the stories she told). I watched the video several times this morning, thought about it all day, and then watched it again as soon as I got home. She said that she felt afraid, embarrassed and ashamed, and that she felt the need to apologise upfront for her condition. I have felt the same way – and I’m sure everyone has – but her use of the word ‘apologise’ really grabbed me.
I apologise when I ask people for help with carrying laundry bags or shopping bags. I apologise when I ask people to slow down when they walk too quickly for me. I apologise when I have to ask for assistance with stairs or escalators; I apologise when I have to ask my friends to meet me at accessible stations or help me find accessible routes when we meet up and go out. I apologise if I fall and people help me up. I apologise for every need I have and for every single time I require any form of help. I hate that I need the help at all and – even though it sounds self-pitying – I hate that people look out for me or feel the need to keep an eye on me. I hate being reliant on people for things and I hate being perceived as needy or weak. I don’t apologise upfront for having cerebral palsy, but I apologise for everything that is associated with my impairment and for any effect it has on other people.
I apologise a lot. I’m certain that if I weren’t apologising for my disability, I would be apologising for something else. I just hate drawing attention to myself when I’m struggling and I hate to struggle at all. I understand that I will never be bulletproof and that I will always apologise, but I don’t think I would apologise as often if I weren’t so hard on myself. I hate moving through the world both encumbered and spinning, weighed down and unsafe at once. I hate that other people see that I need help and I hate needing any help. The truth is that everyone does need help from time to time with lots of things in life and that need doesn’t make anyone weak. I just don’t like that I need help with things other people don’t seem to and that it’s an extra component of anyone’s relationship with me: awareness that I might need help. It just hurts.
Stacy’s personal story was ultimately helpful and hopeful: she opened up a conversation in which people affected with psoriasis can participate, she guided people to medical and therapeutic resources, and she assured people that care for psoriasis was not only available, but a team effort. She certainly seems to have benefited from everything for which she advocates, and she feels better in the midst of managing a painful and uncomfortable condition. It’s the best she can do – and the best hope she has – and she does it well. I know that I have previously vented about disliking the idea of being inspirational, but this is one of those times when a sad story ultimately proves relatable and inspirational because everyone can relate to the emotional experience of feeling unhappy, unworthy, afraid, and ashamed. I am certain that – even with the best care – Stacy still feels all of these things from time to time, but she provided a comforting message that healing is available and possible.