During yesterday morning’s class, my professor was giving a lecture about the history of treatment modalities in our field. He was specifically addressing the shift away from a model that focuses on pathology and disability towards a model that focuses on ability. The point of the shift is to treat the patient as a whole person within the context of their own personal and social environment and to include their needs/wants/values/choices in making medical decisions. It’s an ideal model, but not one we’ll be seeing adhered to anytime soon, since it’s not a model that generates as much profit (gotta love capitalism). Regardless, it was all very empowering and feel-good stuff.
Except, as he’s talking about elevators (commonly used by individuals with physical impairments) he says to the class:
“Don’t use them! I haven’t caught anyone in here yet, but you better not be using the elevator. If you want to work in physical therapy, you should be using the stairs! If I catch you riding the elevator, I’m going to have something to say to you!”
Um, excuse me? This statement really pissed me off. Mostly because I use the elevator every single time I go to school…
I walk into the health sciences building, flash my ID badge, make a sharp right, hit the “up” button, and ride the elevator to the third floor. I use that time to take some deep breaths and center myself. I also put my sunglasses/hats/gloves/scarf/etc in my bag and organize my crap. It’s my final moment to collect myself and transition to “student mind” (which is sometimes quite a challenge since I have a dissociative disorder) before the elevator doors open. Once they do, I am in full-on school mode and ready to tackle the day. Then I stop by the bathroom to wash my hands and fix my hair/makeup before finally walking to my classroom. It’s a short but necessary routine that helps me feel calm and present.
I also have chronic back/hip pain that flares up rather frequently, especially when it’s cold out. So sometimes I forgo the stairs just to limit the added stress on my muscles and joints. Or sometimes I’m literally just tired and don’t want to climb three flights of stairs.
But you know what? None of that is really relevant to anyone except ME. It is no one else’s damn business how I choose to move my own physical body through space, least of all my professor! So he is welcome to judge me or make assumptions about my choices to ride an elevator. He is free to have contempt for that choice. But if he thinks for one second that it is even remotely appropriate to then say something to me about it, he is sorely mistaken.
I do not owe him an explanation. I do not need to defend myself or my choices. And I sure as shit don’t deserve to be chastised, judged, belittled, or shamed about my decision to take the elevator over the stairs.
What is with people and their nosy, self-righteous bullshit? Why does he even think he has the right to be remotely involved in what I do with my body? Perhaps I am “over-sensitive” to these types of statements because I am a woman, an abuse survivor, and someone who has struggled with body image issues. Maybe I’m overreacting because it touches a sore spot for me. And yes, I am probably projecting my own self-hatred and insecurities onto him. I will admit that I certainly do not wish to be perceived as some lazy fatass just because I’m “caught” riding the elevator to class.
But that doesn’t mean I am wrong. It doesn’t give my professor the right to threaten our entire class with a shame-based scolding based on our choice to not walk up three flights of stairs. And can I just point out that it’s also a very poor way to demonstrate the “a patient is a whole person with their own wants/needs/choices” model he had JUST been teaching us a whopping 30 seconds prior to making such a threat. Just saying.