Let me start off by saying, bringing Crush places, in general, doesn’t make me nervous. It makes me feel safe. He provides a lot of mitigation for my symptoms. He also helps take care of me when those symptoms are too much. I had a situation come up last week that made me question my own stigma. I needed to go car shopping. Out of respect for the dealers, I chose not to bring Crush. Although it is legal for Crush to be with me, I know how annoying it is to clean dog hair out of cars.
Since Crush didn’t go with me to shop, I felt awkward bringing Crush when we went back to buy the car. I thought of all the questions the salesman would have. Why do you have a service dog? Why didn’t you bring it last time? I look perfectly healthy on the outside and I’m very aware of that. The irony of this situation is that I was in bad shape when shopping for cars. No one would ever know it but my heart was up and down. During this experience, I needed to be off my medication for an upcoming test. My symptoms were all over the place.
I brought Crush with me to buy the car. Despite my own judgments, I need Crush. Although, yes, I could’ve survived that situation without Crush I didn’t want to. Crush is always looking out for my best interest. Even when I am going to buy a car, I feel more comfortable with Crush by my side.
The stigma I had about this was the fear I carry. I often get asked why I have Crush. It’s an awkward and somewhat rude question. I wouldn’t ask someone why they need a wheelchair. People have no clue what is going on in my body. I feel the need to act like I’m not sick because I don’t like the questions. Especially when someone has met me for the first time without Crush. What I realized is, it’s not my job to make everyone else comfortable. I need to feel safe. That was the point of getting Crush. We’re in every situation together and we have each other’s back. I thought this was a good learning lesson. I felt awkward bringing Crush out of fear of what others would say. No one had even said anything and yet I didn’t want to bring him. Acknowledging this fear is not giving in to the anxiety of what other’s think. I am a confident person but I am not without fear of judgment.
What I will end with is this: Don’t give up what you need out of fear. More importantly, don’t neglect your needs to make others comfortable. It may seem like the right thing to do but you only end up limiting yourself. Other people are in charge of their own emotions. How they respond is up to them. You don’t owe anybody anything, especially not an explanation of your illness. Your body is your business.