I can identify with this. As someone who seems to attract people experiencing emotional issues, and has been described as a good listener, I have frequently offered comfort in the form of a hug or hands resting on the sufferer’s shoulder.
Since I have had syringomyelia, a neurological condition resulting in acute and chronic pain, I understand how people touching me is just agony. They mean well but it is unbearable. I rarely say anything and try to shift out of reach but it is difficult to do this without offending the sensibilities of others.
Journeys on the underground are a nightmare. Having a stick provides little help in creating any personal space. It is usually ignored. Being crushed up against, leaned against, shunted along are all agonising. The dilemma of to travel or not to travel is what most disabilited people experience daily. Weighing up degrees of pain and its inherent emotional resilience are taken in each journey. Tough one.
Just being touched is ghastly. Even the anticipation of it is ghastly. How can we educate each other about respect for personal space? It is a lifelong family, school, societal dialogue.
Criminologist and Co-Director of Centre for Gender Studies at University of Sussex