Why my disability doesn’t define me…
I’ve always had a disability; I acquired a brain injury at birth which left me with Cerebral Palsy. I don’t know what it means to walk ‘normally’, or ‘like everyone else’. I never have, and I never will. But that’s ok…
It’s ok, because I’m comfortable with who I am.
It’s ok, because I’m lucky to be able to walk.
And it’s ok because it’s a part of who I am, and I’m proud of who I am.
There are so many people in this world who can’t walk; who have lost their ability to walk through illness or incident or have never known what it is to press the soles of their well-developed feet against terra firma to stride confidently across a pavement without a hundred pairs of eyes staring at them in disbelief and confusion amid a busy high street.
So many people who will never know what it’s like to enter a room without being confronted by embarrassed whispers, and overly-helpful older people of another generation ripping their bags from their shoulders without asking because “helping you carry your stuff is the right thing to do.”
Living with a disability, like anything, has its downsides – it’s somewhat inconvenient at times; I have to find new ways of doing everyday tasks, and people who don’t know me tend to interact with me differently – but, personally, I’ve never felt it a defining feature of my life…
When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is never “I’m disabled”, it’s normally something along the slightly dazed and sleepy lines of “oh god, how much work have I got to do today?” or “I really wish my daughter was better at sleeping…”.
As a 90s child – already 7 when the Disability Discrimination Act came into play, I struggled to be heard or noticed for anything positive thanks to my inability to walk like other children.
My mother battled for my right to be educated appropriately, and no official ever dreamed I’d get any kind of formal qualification.
Throughout my life, people have constantly tried to pigeon-hole me; assuming I don’t work, I’ve never had a romantic relationship, I can’t read or write, and I can’t have a family.
But, of all those times people assumed what I can’t do with my life, no-one’s ever taken the time to ask me how I feel about it – how I experience the world or what I think about the challenges I face. Because, realistically, that’s all my disability is to me: a set of challenges I have to work around.
I don’t look at myself in the mirror every day and see difference, damage or everything I’m unable to do.
I don’t get in my car to drive to work or take my child to playschool of a morning, and sit staring at the adaptions, wondering what it might be like to drive with my feet instead of my hands.
I don’t cook dinner on my stove each night whilst sitting on a stool and thinking about all the things I could do in the kitchen if I could stand up for longer.
When I look in the mirror, I wonder if my bum looks big in my dress; when I get in my car and drive to work or playschool, I curse the cars surrounding my driveway that make it a rigmarole to reverse out; and when I cook dinner… more often than not, I’m thinking about how bloody hungry I am after a 10 hour shift.
For me, my identity is not determined by my disability. My identity is determined by however I choose to identify.
My experience of the world is inevitably different to anyone else’s, but of course it would be. Everyone interacts with the world differently, and everyone has a unique viewpoint; that’s the beauty of being human. Of being an individual.
When I consider my place in the world, it’s not as a disabled person, it’s as a mother, a daughter, a writer, a homeowner, a lover of Shakespeare, and keen-theatre-goer.
When I consider my place in the world, I consider my abilities, and my strengths. Not my dis-abilities.
Disability is a part of my life – a part of which I am proud – but a small part, nonetheless.
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