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When My Family Tells Me Not to Call Myself Disabled

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After being diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia, I came to terms with the fact that I am chronically disabled at 21. I had crying fits over the fact that my entire life was in shambles because of one condition. My hypersomnia was the determining factor for everything I disliked about myself. My memory loss, vivid dreams and always being tired are all side effects of my hypersomnia.

But at some point, I got tired of crying and I embraced this part of me. I joined the disability community on Twitter and started talking to more people with my sleep disorder. As part of embracing my new identity, I decided to explain to my family members that I’m disabled. A lot of my family lashed out and voiced their opinions on the matter, saying things like “You’re not disabled! You shouldn’t have that mindset” or “Just because you’re medicated doesn’t mean you’re disabled!” or “Stop saying that!” My family kept denying that I could be the disabled figure in their lives when I am the first one to almost finish college. When I am the most glass-half-full person they’ve ever met.

Being disabled is defined by Merriam-Webster as “impaired or limited by a physical, mental, cognitive or developmental condition.” My hypersomnia doesn’t look like it impacts me at first glance, but it impairs me mentally and physically. I put my phone down in odd places such as the fridge and forget it’s there. I miss important calls or meetings because I fell asleep. I miss notes in class because I dozed off. I wake up confused every time I doze off or sleep because my dreams are so vivid that I can’t tell reality from my fiction.

I am disabled at 21 and that’s OK. I am a first-generation college student with ADA accommodations. It is a part of me that I have come to accept. It’s not some scary label. It’s my identity.

Getty image by Stefanamer.

Originally published: November 17, 2020
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