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The Things Disability Has Done for Me

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From time to time, I look around and wonder what the rest of my peers are going through. We all seem to be caught up in our daily lives and rarely take the time to consider that other people may be going through the same things we are. If you spoke to me on a random weekday, I may seem a bit stressed, but overall I am very good at putting on my facade, walking out the door, and letting everyone believe this is the real me. But when you deal with invisible disabilities, you often wonder what people are going through.

I think having anxiety, depression, panic disorder and epilepsy have led me to try and be more patient with others. I had a pretty good childhood. I did well in school and had amazing friends. I wasn’t struggling too badly. But when high school hit and my mental illnesses began to take precedence over the rest of my life, I wondered about little things. Why was the lady in front of me being rude to the cashier? Is it really worth the stress to begin fighting over a $1.00 coupon for your razors? Having these comorbid disorders have led me to a lot of serious questions.

On a daily basis I will struggle with a range of personal questions from: Are you disabled? to Why does this happen to me? to Why are you worrying about this? Yes, my disability has given me some difficult times and situations, but regardless of it, I will have tough times. I choose to see the positive outcomes of my situation. I believe many of the things I do and see in the world are in reaction to how my disabilities have affected me. If I see a waiter or waitress giving subpar service I try to be extra patient because they could be struggling financially, going to work every day, not have health insurance, and have depression. I look at people around me and wonder if they’re struggling too. It’s almost as if acknowledging these differences in our ability to operate in certain aspects of life must be kept secret. It’s almost as if nobody ever wants to say the word.

Why should my disability make me lesser? If anything I think my disabilities have led me to become a superhero. When I was 7 years old and diagnosed with epilepsy, my teachers immediately wanted to put me onto an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). They wanted to give me more time on tests and make me different when I was already performing at the top of my class. Nevertheless, I persisted. When I was missing school for major bouts of anxiety and depression in 11th and 12th grade, my guidance counselor told me I would never get into Boston University. They told me it would be useless to apply. Instead, I used this to motivate me and show the world I could do anything. Four years later I am a senior with a major and a minor. I am looking to use law as a way to effect change for people with disabilities. Nevertheless, I will persist.

People with disabilities are just like everybody else. They are trying to enjoy their life, have fun and do their best. People with disabilities have been stigmatized since the beginning of time, gone through horrendous treatment, been institutionalized, segregated, laughed at, mocked, and now we say no more. I never wanted to be considered a person with a disability because I was afraid of the stigma.

I will not accept that any longer.

My differences have led me to understand the world in such a way that I appreciate more, I love more, I give more, and I dream more. I understand my disabilities may not be the most severe, but I think whenever people think disabilities they think negative, whereas many people are able to find truths and hope in their disabilities. Compassion, love, and understanding are a few of the most common phrases I hear from people. Disabilities can do things for us besides physically and emotionally affect us. They can make us shout from the mountaintops that we will not be held down.

So yes, I have a few disabilities. I am not ashamed and will not be ashamed. I am proud of who I am and what I have accomplished. Life is not always easy, but I have been able to understand so much because of what I have been through, and I appreciate all the lessons I have learned having been in this situation.

If you take nothing else away from reading this, please take away the concept of always being kind to one another, because you never know when that kindness will be the difference in someone’s life.

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Photo by contributor.

Originally published: November 8, 2017
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