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What Adulting Looks Like When Living With a Disability

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At some point, the majority of people reach a point where they have to step out of the protective cocoon of childhood and learn to “adult.” For most people, that looks like learning how to navigate finances, searching for housing, cleaning, preparing meals, and starting a family if they so choose. But, those of us with disabilities have a whole other set of challenges to cope with as we spread our wings and try to fly as adults.

Adulting with a disability means navigating doctor appointments on my own. Not only do I have to find the energy to show up, it may mean navigating confusing parking garages and large hospitals. It means thinking of and being brave enough to ask the hard questions.

As an adult, I had to brave the 12 different needle pokes from my Botox injections today on my own – and the doctor didn’t even have any stickers after! I even joked he should find a label and draw a smiley face on it.

Unlike when I was a child, I was more or less looking forward to my Botox injections this time because I understood that receiving the injections would give me my best shot at adulting on my own with as minimal pain as possible. It’s still hard to go through it alone.

Adulting with a disability means asking the hard question of whether you may qualify for an accessible parking pass even when a large part of you thinks you don’t deserve it or want to admit you may need it.

Last week, I finally was able to move out of my parents’ house, but even that was more challenging as an adult with a disability. I looked at two different apartments because very few options were available – one was a three-story townhouse. That was a no-go due to the required lawn care and having to navigate all the stairs.

The other unit that I did get was difficult to secure because my low income means I need a housing voucher from the state to afford my apartment. I had to get special permission due to my disability to make this specific unit work due to the high monthly rent. I need a unit on the first floor, and the only unit in the county I could find available on the first floor had a rent set above what the voucher allowed. This meant making lots of phone calls and countless hours and confusion to make it through this process and ultimately contacting my state representative for help when we hit dead end after dead end. As an adult, it’s important to know when to ask for help, and this is when my “adulting” meant asking my parents for help when I was overwhelmed.

Managing finances while on SSI means constantly checking my bank account to make sure there is enough money to pay rent and the credit card bill on top of any other bills I may have. It means thinking critically about what is a true need and what is more of a want.

Cleaning with a disability means asking my case manager to help unload my laundry from my suitcase from my move and putting it in my dresser. It means making sure I have cleaning supplies in whatever location I may need them so I don’t have to constantly move things from one room to the next. It means splurging on a Roomba and an air purifier to cut down on the dust and daily chore of sweeping the floor.

Cooking ornate dinners is usually out of the picture as an adult with a disability because I just don’t have any spoons left at the end of the day to cook. Adulting with a disability means having a freezer full of freezer meals and other ingredients on hand for easy prep meals.

Family planning with a disability is a challenge. Although I’m not even close to thinking about having a family, I know that for me, birthing my own children is pretty much out of the picture due to the risk of birth defects from the many mental health medications I take. I know people with genetic conditions also have to navigate the difficulty of family planning knowing they may have a chance of passing on their condition.

Adulting with a disability is a full-time job. I hate to think of living with a disability as something I have to fight, or that I’m a survivor or a warrior, so I describe this extra responsibility as my story. I will continue to write my story as a person with a disability day after day, page after page.

Getty image by Natalia Mikhaleva.

Originally published: November 7, 2021
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