What You Should Know If You Laughed At This Viral Photo Of Me

by Jennifer Wilkinson for The Mighty
Originally Published: 
Jennifer Wilkinson

This is my 15 minutes of fame. If you check sites such as the People of Walmart or Reddit, you will most likely find this photo.

Jennifer Wilkinson

The worst thing about this photo is that people think a fat woman tipped over a cart because she was too lazy to get out of the cart to get the case of soda.

I have a condition in my spine called spondylolisthesis. In spondylolisthesis, one of the bones in your spine — called a vertebra — slips forward and out of place. This may occur anywhere along the spine, but is most common in the lower back (lumbar spine). In some people, this causes no symptoms at all. Others may have back and leg pain that ranges from mild to severe. The most common symptoms in the legs include a feeling of vague weakness associated with prolonged standing or walking. In my case, the longer I stand the more numb and weak my legs become. I have been known to fall because of this condition.

I am also very obese which does not help the situation in my back. I have learned that, due to my mental illness, I have used eating as a way to cope. I fight my weight daily and have recently joined a gym. But my weight is still a battle.

So this happened several years ago (around 2011 to 2012). I was at a very low point in my mental health. I was also experiencing a lot of pain and weakness that day. I took a cart because I was grocery shopping for my family. I went to get a case of soda for my husband (he drinks this stuff by the gallons) and I turned and tried to grab a case off the shelf and the cart tipped. I thought I saw a flash of light and heard some young girls giggling. I thought nothing of it because I am used to hearing people make fun of me or making snide remarks. It was nothing new.

A few months later, I saw this photo on a site making fun of people of Walmart. I have also seen this photo attached to stories that aren’t even true about this situation. The only thing I am glad about is it did not capture my face.

The reason I am sharing this is because people think it is funny to laugh at people with disabilities. You cannot see my disabilities, but they are there and they are real. So next time you see photos making fun of people, just remember you know nothing about these people or the struggles they face every day. It is never just harmless fun to laugh at someone.

Here are a few photos of me to prove that it is me in the photo above:

Jennifer Wilkinson

Jennifer Wilkinson

My spine disease started with degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease usually starts when a person is close to 50 years old. In my case, it started in my early 20s and that was before I was obese. After the disc is gone, spondylolisthesis happens. Both my parents had a form of this disease, and both had to have back surgeries in their early 30s. So there’s a good chance my children can get the same spine disease.

My obesity is caused by my American diet and also by my mental illnesses. I have major depressive disorder, PTSD, and avoidant personality disorder. I have experienced several cases of emotional trauma that lead to these illnesses. So I ended up using food to cope with my mental illnesses.

My main point in this answer is I did not choose to be photographed at a low point in my life. The fact that people assume I am fat because I am lazy is false. Or they assume I am fat because I want to be on disability. Obese people are treated as less than human and as something to ridicule. I just want people to be aware that fat people are people too.

I just want to make something clear: I am not asking people to accept or condone obesity. Obesity is a major health problem causing many illnesses and diseases. I also am not asking people to pity or feel sorry for me. What I want is compassion, understanding, and respect as a fellow human being. I am a person. Please treat me like one!

This post previously appeared on The Mighty.

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