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When I Was Told I'm 'Giving in' to My Disability

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“You’re giving in.”

These are some of the most hurtful words I’ve heard in a while. They’re in my mother’s voice, echoing through my head, action by action, day by day.

I grew up in musical theater, performing since the tender age of 5. I was forced to carry around a book on my head to even out my walk. Needless to say it didn’t work, but instead left me with eternal scars of self-loathing.

For 14 years, I was never able to recognize myself in the mirror. I couldn’t accept myself — I was so obsessed with hiding my disability, I hid myself in the process, and because of that, didn’t even have a true friend until recently. Fourteen years later, those scars have started to fade. I’ve given up the gleam and glow of the stage to follow my lifelong love of science — biology, specifically. I’ve also admitted that I am disabled and need accommodations to live as functionally and independently as I can. Slowly, I’m starting to recognize my reflection as I pursue my own happiness. But still those words echo in my head.

“You’re giving in.”

I started using mobility aids this year to navigate my inaccessible campus. There’s no doubt that I’m disabled now! But really, who was I fooling? I walk like I’m a drunk unaided, and am completely unable to walk in a straight line. However, with the support of my braces, I can walk longer distances, and with my dog, I can walk fearlessly. But apparently because of all that good, I’m giving in to my disability.

I think my mother meant to say that I was looking more disabled than she was comfortable with, but I got my freedom. If anything, “looking disabled” and giving in has allowed me to explore the world with the same opportunities as everyone else, instead of spending all my time just fighting to get around.

I am no longer on stage, pretending I am “normal.” I am no longer playing a caricature of myself, an empty mockery of what could have been. I am myself. I am off the stage, being myself, ready to truly love and maybe even allow myself to be loved.

Yes, I am giving in. I am giving in to finally being myself without shame. The curtain has fallen. Look out world, here I come!

Getty image by AGS Andrew.

Originally published: September 3, 2018
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