Tuesday, July 19, 2011



I had a stroke when I was 26. My Mind went Pop: Mindpop. My stroke took away my limbs and speech for a while. Here are some chronicles…

I. Dating

As a general rule, friends don’t set up friends with disabled friends.

II. Fireworks

I had my brain surgery at the end of June when I was 26. The night of July 4th, I watched the Independence Day fireworks from the roof deck of the hospital. The display seemed to go on forever. In reality, it was just a few minutes. My sense of time was changed.

III. Big Sister Hand

When I was little, my right hand was the dexterous one. I gave my hands personalities: The right was the Big Sister Hand: strong and smart. The left was the Little Brother Hand: a bit slow.

You can guess the birth order in my family.

Now my left is the dexterous and the right is slow.

IV. Soul

Up until the 19th century, Western theologians thought the brain was where the Christian soul lived. The brain was not divisible with separate areas for language or motor skills. It was symmetrical, a godly orb.

But by the 1860s science demonstrated localization — different brain areas for different functions. The brain was not a symmetrical orb at all.

Where is the soul?

V. Cheer Me Up

My aunt says that as she has gotten older, more strangers smile at her in the street, as if they have been taught “old people need to be cheered up because their life must suck.”

Is disability the same?

Are you patronized?

PreviouslyOther Mindpop posts.

Nina Mitchell also writes on Mindpop and Facebook.

© 2011 by Nina Mitchell, The material in this article is protected by copyright and may not be copied or published or otherwise distributed without the Author’s permission. All Rights Reserved.

18 Comments / Post A Comment

Elizabeth Oporto@facebook

I am so guilty of smiling at old people. I blame it on articles I've read based on the fact that as you get older people ignore. Or maybe it's just because my grandfather is super genial and I assume that everyone would be as pleased as him to interact with people.


@Elizabeth Oporto@facebook I'm so guilty of this too. I don't know why, since I'm always walking around with perma-bitchface (which inevitably leads to the "gurl, why you so angry? Let me make ya smile" cat calls), but I always smile at old people. Maybe it's because I don't want them to think our generation is full of a bunch of stank faced assholes?

Also, old couples! I die every time.


@contrary I respond to old couples the way normal people respond to kittens. (Don't judge the accidental FB log-in lapse)


@Elizabeth Oporto@facebook I do this, too, but I never thought to do so because of pity... now that I'm analyzing my reasoning I guess it's actually because old people are not threatening and usually smile back. I like having people smile at me. I do not like sleazy smiles or random dudes thinking I'm trying to start something up. Ergo, don't smile at even anybody in dateable range and do smile at old people!


A lady who'd had a stroke fairly recently (I think) got on an elevator with me yesterday--I asked her what floor, and she said "3." Then "4!"

Enjoying the blog.


"I. Dating
As a general rule, friends don’t set up friends with disabled friends."

I completely disagree.


@abigail curious - you don't? You live in an awesome community where disabled people are seen as sexy and romantically available? That is awesome because most disabled people I know do not have that experience, unless it's fetish related.

Erin Olsen@facebook

@abigail A few years ago a friend called me up and her first question was, "Would you consider dating a guy in a wheelchair?" That she would lead with that completely stunned me. Not to mention I think she only wanted to set me up with him because I also have a disability.

As to the patronizing issue, mine is the kind of disability that is not always immediately obvious upon meeting me so I constantly have the experience of people "discovering" it and then making that "sympathetic" head tilt/"poor you" face.


@bb Yes, I don't!
No, I don't live in some cut-off-from-the-rest-of-the-world place where disability is seen as the sexiest, but as a 21 year old disabled person - whose disability affects her entire right side and has for her entire life - I can speak for the fact that I have never. in. my. life. had a sexual experience that stemmed from a fetish; however, I have had sexual experiences with a variety of dudes, and my disability has never made any of them reject me (it was always a fear of mine that it would, but it never has and I suspect never will). Additionally, the question here is not "Is it just as easy for me to have sexual experiences as it is for able-bodied hottie over there," it is "Do my friends see me as an attractive, available, equal woman who they think would be an awesome person to date, and who they'd set up with their friends regardless of my disability" and the answer to that is yes.
I am not speaking for every person's experience here, but I think the idea that "friends don’t set up friends with disabled friends" as a "general rule" is worded in a way that it attempts to speak for the experience of most young, disabled people, and it is not my experience.


@Erin Olsen@facebook Mine is similar. It has always been something I've had to reveal or explain, and although that has created a lot of awkward moments, I think it has allowed me the opportunity to have people form an opinion about me before forming an opinion about disabled-me, and for me to shape how they view my disability (most my friends or peers say they usually forget about it, and I usually explain it including how it limits and affects me and what caused it in its entirety to prevent it from becoming this awkward, taboo subject).

I sometimes think that there is an assumption that I should date someone with a disability because I have one, but it's one I've become aware of from the media not from my friends or acquaintances. Although I wouldn't date someone JUST because they have a disability, nor am I attracted to someone because they have a disability, I am not going to not date them for the same reasons and I can understand that for some people having a significant other who comes without societies preconceived notions about disability because they've experienced it as well can be really good. On top of that, disability is such a varied thing, and for someone like my sister who has Down Syndrome, dating someone with the same disability is the best option for her, because there is certainty in that case that they are not taking advantage of her.


@abigail that is really awesome, and I am older so may come at it from a different place. I also think there's probably a diff between having had a disability for your whole life vs. the writer's experience where she became paralyzed recently. I had a mild episode that left me partially paralyzed in my face - friends whom I knew before were really freaked out by it at first, but people I met afterwards don't necessarily register it as something "wrong" with me (though to be clear, this isn't really comparable because it is not something most people would think of as a "disability"). Anyway, that is all just to say that you are right, there aren't really general rules.


@bb Yeah, that's really my point. My experience is not the author's experience, but that is the thing about disability, it comes in so many forms. Someone who was able until something happened to change that is likely going juxtapose their experiences before and after they became disabled and have their friends/family react to it, while someone like me who has never been able has nothing first-hand to compare their experience to. It's really hard to articulate the day-to-day experience of disability, but I know that the author is learning to be aware and on defense and relearning to function in a world that works against her body, while I've been doing for the last 21 years. I'm enjoying reading her perspective, and have commented on most her posts, but I do find that her documentation in terms of disability ends up being pretty negative - which is understandably likely how she feels about it - and although I don't think it is the greatest thing ever to be disabled (it can be painful, difficult, embarrassing, and even shameful), I see value in approaching it from a positive stance and becoming angry when the world/society is ableist rather than feeling mournful for my circumstances.

Ultimately, I'm just really happy that the Hairpin has Nina posting her experiences. I'm happy to see disability being acknowledged and represented on the website I enjoy so much and I enjoy the opportunity to engage with it. I guess my comments and responses can get on peoples nerves, but with the exception of the fact that Nina experiences a stroke at 26, our limitations from our disabilities are very similar (mine likely stems from a stroke in the womb) and I enjoy the chance to contribute


I smile at most everyone and probably some of them think I'm patronising them.


@mmwm me too! it's almost like a tic for me. except for when I ride my bike. then I straight up mean mug.


@mmwm Same. I think it's because i subconsciously think that I'm invisible when I'm on my bike...


@heyits Me three! I think it is because I am terrified of the cars while biking and believe glaring to be a force field of safety.


There's a lady in my neighborhood who appears to me to have had a neurological event of some kind. One side of her face is different than the other and one hand is always held up beneath her bosom. I encounter her most days as she takes her walk at the same time I walk my dogs. I hope she doesn't think I'm patronizing, but I smile when I see her because though her face is not held in a typical friendly smiley way, she fusses over my pups and I am such a sucker for that. They get all wiggly when they see her coming.


I smile more at old people because I've found that they're more likely to smile back at me.

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