A Letter to My Abled Self
This post originally appeared on Living While Disabled.
Inspired by a friend, I wrote a piece of advice for every year of my life, all to my abled self, about becoming disabled and what it has meant. I was never fully abled with very serious mental health problems and less serious learning difficulties, but I was also not always this severely physically impaired, and I am writing to my ‘self’ before the physical impairments became serious this time (though it might also relate to the previous time that physical impairments became so bad). It feels very personal, but I’ve chosen to share it, because sharing it is a part of my journey.
1. Spontaneity is a thing of the past – you will no longer be able to grab each moment – Regret this, mourn your freedom but learn that planned adventures still taste of freedom and adventure. Learn this fast – you will have no choice but to.
2. As opportunities come to you, leap on them – grab them with two eager hands, but make a quiet back-up plan for your health. You will need the opportunities to make life taste of freedom, and you will need the back-up plans to survive.
3. You will not always be able to do everything that you can now – so use the abilities you have, because they may leave you in future. Don’t regret wasted opportunities — they’ll happen. Remember the ones you enjoyed instead.
4. Don’t forget your past, but don’t idolize it either — it was not perfect, and it is now over. You cannot live in it, even in your memories. Let go of the false dream that you could once do anything and learn instead what you can do now.
5. Your life has not ended. This is a change – a brutal change that makes you question everything you are or were, but despite this, you are still alive, even as the world has shifted drastically under your feet.
6. You deserve to be alive. This right is not altered by the size of your contribution to the world. As a person you deserve to live. You owe society nothing, but it owes you the chance to stay alive.
7. You are not a burden. When you require help, ask for it freely and openly. You will always have friends who can answer.
8. Friends, family and doctors are not inside your body. Listen to your body and trust it; if you let yourself do this you will know yourself better than anyone else ever can.
9. Eventually, you’ll drag yourself through this, bleeding and half broken. You are a survivor and you will survive everything the world throws at you. It is not over. However ill you get, it is not over.
10. You will lose people you thought were your best friends, but you will make new ones, and learn to value those you keep because you would be gone without them. The people who love you want to help you. Let them.
11. Your suffering was not your fault, and it was not okay. Repeat this to yourself, because you’ll need to hang onto this when you have nothing left to hold and the world is slipping through your fingertips.
12. You will not face a situation you cannot survive, but if you think you have done so, write. Some of your best work comes from the darkest moments of your illness.
13. In the eyes of society, you will become an object of pity. Don’t believe this about yourself. You are not a tragedy, your life is not a tragedy. Build friends from those who realize this. Rage against those who pity you.
14. Your bed will become your home, your chair, your workspace, your nest, your throne. You will live in it. Learn to love it, make it beautiful, make a home of it. When you feel sore, ill and out of place everywhere else, this will be your refuge.
15. You will become broken,ugly and twisted. You will be more beautiful than you ever were, and someone will see it. You are still deserving of receiving love and capable of giving it.
16. Make your home in the silver linings of your situation — they are there, if only you look, and you can match your broken shapes to there and learn to heal in them.
17. Let yourself give up in the hardest moments. Bury yourself in your pain, and slowly catch the fragments that spun themselves away in your recent trauma. Scream at the universe until your voice is hoarse and remind yourself this is all part of healing.
18. Do not make an enemy of your body but comfort the heart that feels ready to burst, gently soothe the legs that are twisted in agony and breathe slowly when you’re in too much agony to speak. Your body is a part of you and you are surviving your situation alongside it. It is not your enemy, and the sooner you learn to treat it well, the easier things will become.
19. You’ll forget how it feels not to be tired or the sensation of not being wracked with pain, but in time you’ll become used to this feeling. Like everything else, this isn’t going to kill you. You will find happiness, even with pain that feels unbearable.
20. Look at your life, and choose the bits you love. Value those, because you will be forced, over and over, to pare down those things you do not need. Prioritize happiness over productivity. When you are forced to choose what to keep, build a life that you will love. Do not feel guilty about this. You deserve to be happy.
21. You will discover that you are stronger than you ever thought was possible. You are stronger than the world has ever hinted. You have survived things that should have killed you, and you can continue to do so. Your life is not over, however drastically different it is.
22. Your body may be irreparable but you are not. You can repair yourself and carry on, emotionally if not physically. Your body is a part of you, but it is not the whole of you, and you can exist and thrive, however broken it is. You are not beyond repair.
23. You cannot know what the future holds, but look back and see what you have come through so far. You are still alive having done that. What you have lived through would have killed lesser people, and you survived your past. You will survive your future.
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