Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa #8: New Body, New Sneakers

Oh Hey! It’s Alyssa is a biweekly web comic series by Alyssa

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A. Andrews

A. is a totally complete incomplete paraplegic and thirty-something hanky-in-the-pocket cartoonist weirdo!

A. has written 69 articles for us.


  1. Thank you so much for this Alyssa, it’s a really insightful comic. Your sister sounds awesome, your psychiatrist far less so!

      • It is the greatest and most feared weapon ever. La Chancla is a flip flop that is used for spanking. It is feared by many children in the Mexican house hold. I am scarred to this day lol

        • Haha. It was even scarier when your mom told you to go get it for her.

          It’s funny how as an adult, the word “Chancla” now makes me laugh!

  2. I was in a wheel chair for a few months while on so many pain killers I wouldn’t have been able to walk if I could. It impacted the way I view the world. I learned to appreciate the very difficult combination of functions my body goes through that allows me to freely walk. I had not realized how much I took for granted, and it made me appreciate the friends and family I have in my life. And for some odd reason, the pain meds made me deathly afraid of cats.

  3. Gah, going shopping in a wheelchair for the first time feels… either they can’t make eye contact or they stare like you’re part of the entertainment. Am I the only one who always felt like I had to be careful about what I did or said in case people would accuse me of “faking it”? Why was I always so worried about that? I could always hop around on my buff leg if I had to but wouldn’t in public. I felt like I had to look like I “really needed” the wheelchair. Buying running shoes would be a hard one!

    • oh yeah, people look at you like you’re strange for even needing to purchase clothes? the best is when you have to go through like, a back access to even enter and/or have someone just bring you clothes when you can’t fit through racks. like, wut?

  4. Mad respect, Alyssa. If I’d had to stay hospitalized as long as you and deal with that psychiatrist… ugh.

    I woke up at least able to move and use my upper body. Of course my very first memory was throwing up on the nurse. It was a different world in that chair. Everyone rushing by me, no one looking and waving or nodding, no one saying hello like they all were to each other. People offering to help when I didn’t need it and no one willing to when I did. I didn’t really consider a walker a big improvement either, y’know?

    “Why is she using a walker? She’s so young.”

    Even trying to enjoy simple pleasures like a movie became horrible.

    “Excuse me, I need to get by.”

    “Yeah, um, I can’t actually move my leg?”

    *Dirty looks and they walk away*

    Right, because I’m disabled just to inconvenience this person to switch rows. They figured it out. That was my master plan all along. It was so worth it. :P

    Things like film and air travel were the worst. People constantly bumping into me and causing me agonizing pain… but most would just ignore me like I didn’t exist. Trying to sit through a flight or movie was wickedly painful too. I felt like I couldn’t complain because my ex was getting sick of it.

    Oh and the “jokes”, ugh. Able-bodied people asking to race with me. Getting called lazy. All in “good fun” by friends, acquaintances, or co-workers, but it’s maddening to endure.

    I’m sorry, I just want to go smack that shoe-guy now. :P

    • Oh yes, the “you’re too pretty to be in a wheelchair” comments. Pro-tip: not actually a compliment!

      I am sure more details will unravel so I won’t spoil potential upcoming. narratives but I did eventually gain some function in my legs and walk – pretty wobbly – but currently unassisted.

      This is something that is very much rooted in conversations regarding acknowledging holding certain privileges within a marginalized community (I.e. I now fit in retail stores, think less about what levels the restaurant bathrooms are on, I experience medical centers and treatment as a white and cisgender person, etc etc.) …but more of that to come… that’s a whole topical piece (or ten…thousand) entirely.

      But yes x1000 to your related remarks. As well as those highlighted above. Particularly when acquiring disability or experiencing loss of function, it is an experience that is really difficult to truly “get” until it happens.

      Having been pretty open and progressive all my life, the suddenness of how much life would change felt so unexpected despite the fact that I had been expecting it my whole life! Xo. Thanks for all the amazing comments folks!

      • I regained function fairly well. I still live with problems, but there’s days I can sprint as long as I take pain medications. It’s difficult because generally I come across as very able-bodied, high energy, and a little athletic, but then there’s days where pain is overwhelming and I can’t bear any weight on my leg and I’m moving fairly slowly with a cane… and I just know everyone is looking at me like, “wtf? I saw you running yesterday.”

        Well, fuck. I don’t have access to the daily settings on my bionic leg. :P

        • That’s about my level of functioning and god is it frustrating to deal with people who see you at your best mostly and don’t understand that that’s not the usual level of functioning and don’t get when you’re less functional. Or like people that interact with me mostly via social media assume things are going great in my life bc I’m still throwing up a decent amount of kayaking photos and it’s like no, I am spending like 1/3 of my time at “mostly functional/able to boat” and the next 1/3 not able to boat but not doing great and the last 1/3 is just PAIN, curl up on the couch and try not to lose my mind to the pain. And like that’s not even accounting for my bad ankle which even post-surgery I won’t likely regain all functioning (but I should regain stability and that would be enough).

          • Yeah, I have layers of issues and especially on the days when everything is at its worst I’m just curled up in a ball on my couch, watching Frozen for five times in one sitting.

          • —“god is it frustrating to deal with people who see you at your best mostly and don’t understand that that’s not the usual level of functioning and don’t get when you’re less functional.”

            This, this, this, this, this. The single most difficult thing about my chronic illness (well, there are other pretty difficult things also, but yeah). Thank you for sharing, this made me feel less alone.

  5. So funny !

    Little story, I’m very lucky because I need orthopedic shoes (and they really need to be tailored to my feet, with specific adaptation). I go to see a man who is amazing : you show him a picture of your favorite non-orthopedic shoes (or a drawing of your dream shoe), and he replicates it but in an orthopedic version. So you can have any shoe you want ! And he’s really great. Once I had asked him for a black and white sneakers. The second time I saw him, he said to me “the last time, I saw that you had hunger games pins on your jacket, so I ordered little Hunger Games pins for your sneakers”, and that’s how I have black and white sneakers with Hunger Games pin’s.

    Anyway, I asked my doctor for a new prescription for new shoes, and I mentionned that great guy. He just said :”you really think that how your shoes look are important ?”

    I was so stunned I said nothing, but damn. Of course how my shoes look are importan, it’s not because I’m in a wheelchair that it need to be ugly !

    • I truly love this share! You are far from alone in these sorts of remarks. I often have doctors spew all kinds of horrid sounding clinical language, essentially tell me to deal with it, and there is a huuuuuge level of shaming the disabled into thinking they are vain for not feeling great about the use of medical devices, or an inability to wear certain clothing items, etc. etc.

      I once had a doctor tell me I was selfish in being so stubborn as to push myself to walk as long as possible.

      The good v bad disability stereotypes are not remotely limited to the ignorant – often times the most harmful messages relayed come from medical professionals. It’s a total buzz kill.

      Rock whatever shoes you can rock. And don’t ever let someone make you feel bad for not wanting to settle. It’s important to know our limits, but it’s totally okay to seek out things that make us feel that we have control and (as much as I disdain using this word) a sense of “normalcy” in our lives.

  6. Hey Alyssa, I enjoy all your comics. Your art is really a style all its own. I don’t have anything substantive to contribute to the disability conversation, I’m afraid, but I just wanted to say it’s great to see another person from the Burgh around here! Were you locked up in the UPMC octopus all that time? Ugh. Anyway, hello from a fellow Yinzer. I grew up in Tarentum and Natrona Heights, and my mom still lives in Highland Park.

    • i absolutely WAS locked up in the UPMC octopus. shuffled back and forth between pediatrics and adult in-patient (because my disease stems from childhood – and is super rare to cause so many complications as an adult). UPMC i must say was ultimately great to me, unlike a lot of hospital systems, they had great communication with multidisciplinary teams to tackle kind of all the issues – it wasn’t so disconnected. and i actually still talk to many of my nurses to this day! i’m originally from seattle. but lived in the pittsburgh area for about 10 years. so i know the yinzer life fairly well. heinz ketchup is the only ketchup, and if you’re not a vegan, ranch belongs on everything. :) hello!

    • i have a lot of single panel kinda comic jammers that i’ll probably end up blasting into the internet one day, but one of them discusses that exact thing.

      i live in new york city. therefore i use the subway. i am so privileged and fortunate that getting up and down into subways is hard, but not impossible. i have absolutely been in the position of impossible, and no matter how difficult it may be for me to get around, it is certainly not comparable to those who literally have to find another way every single day. but anyway, being so aware of accessible and inaccessible spaces, my girlfriend and i often find ourselves so irritated because there are a handful of “accessible” subway stations, that are not realistic by any means to use unless you literally are going from like, penn station to yankee stadium… which is likely not a route to work, or a typical excursion…

      but there are signs ALL OVER NEW YORK CITY about how the MTA is working to make our subways more accessible by adding wi-fi.

      ……..does not compute. anyway that’s a rant. but. UGH.

  7. Your comics are probably my favorite thing on Autostraddle rn. I’m in physical therapy school, and I realize that as a white, cis able bodied female I have some learning to do so I can best relate to and serve my future patients, and your comics give me some things to think about that I might not have considered before, things that get lost in the medical shuffle but are really important. thanks for your insightful comics!

    • Thank YOU for taking time out to read into them, or just caring in general? That’s honestly all it really takes. If you care you listen, and if you listen, you do better by your patients. In all honesty, it’s a challenging life, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. Which I think a lot of medical professionals seem to think – since it’s so hard, it must be so awful. Ultimately it’s just different. we’re okay with it sometimes, and we’re miserable about it other times. but it fluctuates about as often as a bad hair day versus a good hair day. The challenges are always there, but resilience is a phenomenal thing and it’s amazing what a person can get used to and re-route. Thank you for being one of the good ones that wants to do better work. There aren’t genuinely enough!

      cheers to you! xo.

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