We’re always so quick to judge people sometimes, be it friends or strangers. In fact, we are so quick to judge, we hardly ever stop to think about whether those people that we are judging are going through anything in their lives. This is exactly what Jackie Vargas once experienced herself.
Jackie recounts the story of when one of her colleagues came up behind her, smacked her back really hard while they were waiting for the elevator, and said, “Your posture is bad. Straighten your spine!” Jackie says the smack was so hard, she was really hurt by it. To retaliate, she turned to her colleague and said really loudly, “I have scoliosis. It doesn’t work like that.”
This isn’t the first time that this had happened to Jackie, either. In fact, she says that if she got a dollar for every time someone decided they would assist her with the curve on her back by using brute force without warning, she would probably be able to at least pay for a chiropractor.
For many reasons, scoliosis is a disease many are ashamed, embarrassed, or shy to talk about it. While Jackie was once like that and still has her moments, she says that she wants to give scoliosis a voice and bring some awareness to this painful struggle that a lot of people deal with, but don’t actually talk about. These people tend to exert a little more physically because they are scared to ask for help. Jackie states that this could be because society conditions us to think that asking for help makes people weak.
“I climb mountains a lot and I know I’m viewed as weak because I choose not to carry a 60-liter backpack,” Jackie shares. She physically can’t, though, and has to remind people of this. “I think in their heads, they think I’m lazy or am just making it up,” she admits. “It really hurts, though; this is not an exaggeration. I’m not just making excuses for not being able to do things. If I could choose to be stronger, I would love to be stronger!”
Jackie likens scoliosis to being the princess from The Princess and the Pea. She explains: “No matter what you do, what position you’re in, what meds you take, what stretches you do, what blankets and pillows you use, what creams you slather on, where you put your heating pad… no matter what, something always hurts!”
To further explain what people with scoliosis go through, Jackie shares that she has had traditional physical therapy, prescribed exercises, chiropractic care, and (as mentioned), the constant back pain. “Walking hurts. Standing hurts. Sitting down hurts,” she enumerates. “While sitting down is a nice rest for you, it causes muscle spasms and severe aches for us. A typical work day involving 8 hours of sitting down is almost unbearable. Most nights I can’t get to sleep because of the pain that I’m going through.”
Anyone with scoliosis, no matter how big or small should not be put down because of it, or told to get over it. What they really need is support. If you know anyone with scoliosis, Jackie suggests asking them how they are. “We need you to try to relate, but we do not need you to pretend to understand what we’ve gone through unless you’ve walked the same path,” she advises. “Please listen to us and sympathize, but accept that there’s no need for you to empathize. Everyone has their baggage, and this is ours. We may be bent, but we’re definitely not broken.