When I was 19, a couple in a restaurant started chatting to me.
They asked me what I did, and I had a split-second moment to decide what to tell them.
In the end, I chose to lie and tell the couple I was at Bristol University studying Psychology.
Clearly, I chose the right answer, as they were very impressed with this and went on to tell me how intellectual I was.
I’ve thought about this moment many times since then and why I chose to lie.
I guess it was for two reasons.
The first is that it’s so much easier to lie.
My story is not a short one, at least not compared to “I go to university”, and when you’re just passing a stranger in life, it feels easier to go with a simple, conventional story which you know they’ll immediately understand.
But the second reason is it takes a little piece of me every time I tell someone my story.
It’s not the telling my story part – it’s their reaction to my story.
All too often the reaction was not good: the conversation always ended up stalling and turning awkward.
Or if it was within a group, I would often then get shut out as no one else really knew what to say to me.
And this reaction hurt, and it happened to me a lot within the first year of my diagnosis, and so that was why I started to lie when strangers asked me what I did.
I haven’t had to lie for many years now due to being housebound, but I know I would react differently now.
I wouldn’t lie to anyone anymore: I’m proud of my story and everything I’ve gone through – and if my story makes people uncomfortable, then I’m okay with that.
But when I was 19, I wasn’t okay with it.
It hurt me when people judged me for not being at university or having a job, and instead, being a young adult still living at home with a disability.
I know some people might be in that same position I was when I was 19.
So I just wanted to tell anyone who feels the need to lie instead of telling strangers their story that’s it’s okay.
It’s understandable and I’ve been there too.
But no matter who reacts badly to your story, or how many people shut you out because of it, I hope you know your story is nothing to be ashamed of.
There will always be people who relate to your story and who will want to listen to it.
Don’t let anyone make you feel ashamed of all the moments you got through to bring you to where you are today.
Your story is something to be proud of.
I hope you never forget that ❤️