“Disability – lack of adequate power, strength, or physical or mental ability; incapacity.”
Oh, Dictionary, how very wrong you are indeed…
When I was a child, like all small children, I stared at people who were different. My intrusiveness struck me silent and stiff as I watched their mannerisms. I’d like to say that they had a greater impact on my small mind, but let’s be honest here, the only things that I cared for were animal crackers in the little circus boxes, playing barefoot outside, and what VHS movie was the best.
These people were majestic.
They walked or rolled around as if nothing were wrong in the first place. I never fathomed that they had been living with the backward stares and curious eyes for all or most of their lives.
Now, having thrown myself in the mix of what actually matters in life and into the scarcely known territory of a world and community that I had never been a part of before. I kick myself (metaphorically speaking, obviously) for not seeing how disability works. It’s a little bizarre how clueless some people, including myself, have been in regard to how astonishingly strong and courageous people with disabilities are.
It’s not the, “let me pick this car up with purely my arm and back” kind of strength. But the “I am going to conquer this world regardless of my no-legged, paralyzed af, can’t hear a thing, blind-as-a-bat, Eeyore mentality, remembering to just breathe when there is so much going on in my head,” kind of strength.
The “will and courage to go on” type of strength.
I remember a time when I felt so ashamed of my amputations that I hid my stumpy legs under a blanket, whether it was hot or cold and my ass hotter than Rihanna’s underboob. It didn’t matter! The blanket hid the truth well enough for me to cope. I was letting all of the absurdly negative connotations that are used to describe disability to cloud my judgment of myself and others.
I will not misinform you by saying it was easy. It took a lot of arguing with myself and meandering to get to a point where I appreciated the state that I am in. I tried to look at the positive aspects of my situation. For example, I had gone from a not-so-whopping 140-something pounds to a meager 60 pounds. Who would’ve thought all I needed to do to lose all of that excess weight was to get run over by a train?
People grow up thinking that disability is in actuality the definition that is above. I do not blame myself for believing what that measly definition claims; just as I don’t blame anyone else. Society has embedded it into our minds and tricked us into thinking that’s the truth. People have a negative image of others with a disability because they aren’t informed. I get that. So, I am here to act as a voice for my beautiful disabled people.
Firstly, what I will do is encourage conformism, start changing the way you view people just by looking at their disability. Get out of that “norm” and take action in recognizing disabled people as what they truly are not just people, but adaptive and durable individuals. Regardless of your knowledge of them. My advice to you is stop asking a disabled person, “what happened” or “what’s wrong with you”. Instead, let them know how admirable they are, remind them of how strong they are, if you pray, offer your prayers, love, and support to them. After all, no one chooses to be disabled. Once you open your heart to those that are different, you begin to find a part of yourself you never knew existed.
I take pride in who I am now, residual limbs and all. I bare these shortened, beautiful nubs with love and show off my battle scars. I honestly can’t express to you how crazy it feels to not need a life jacket. The ration of my body keeps me afloat like a buoy.
See, my body gets me.
I would also like to address the stares from our point of view. We are not a roadside attraction. We are not there for you to stare upon. I am talking about grown adults who should have enough common sense and courtesy. Also, for the love of God never ask to see the “remainder of my legs.” The only time that that would ever be acceptable is if I am in front of a camera making a profit by showing them off. (So, good luck with that). Sigh
We are more than our disability.
If you are living with a disability and are currently at the same state of mind that I was in the beginning I want and hope that you will push past the hurt, exercise your mind, and take hold of who you are.
You have made it to this point. Why waste time thinking that you are less than what you are and instead fight to be the best you that you can be. It is okay to fall, it is okay to cry, it is okay to hate the world sometimes. Just know it’s only temporary if you allow it to be.
Your life is in your hands. It’s up to you to take the steps to create a better, more beautiful way of life.
We are all (disabled or not) adaptive in this world. We as humans can literally overcome just about anything once we put our minds to it. Will there be days when you think it’s nearly impossible to get out of bed? Sure, but the days following that are the days to look back on. You were strong enough to open your eyes and see the world as it should be. All of the bumps in the road are there to help you appreciate the little and big things that you achieve.
I remember the first time I was able to get to the bathroom and take a shower by myself and not have my (incredible) nurse carry me. Although it was nice feeling like a princess for a while, my independence felt like it was crumbling beneath me.
Triumphs, man. They are EVERYTHING.
With a disability comes MacGyvering skills that you had absolutely no idea you had stashed deep in your subconscious. From rope on a doorknob, a specific handle, lowered closet spaces, to a baby’s crib you can unlatch and open for easy access. And who would have thought a trash grabber would be so handy when turning on/off lights and reaching things that you would’ve previously had to climb your one-kneed self onto something to get?
If it works, it works.
I suppose the greatest advice that I can give you all, is to allow yourself to be compassionate. Always be proud of who you are. Always fight to overcome obstacles that get in your way. Never, ever let yourself drown in the struggles that you are faced with.