What I've Learned About Disability Since Having a Stroke
A few nights back, I was talking with someone online. I thought things were going well enough to tell him that I have a disability from a stroke. Then he just ghosted me. This is not the first time; it’s happened time and time again.
People with disabilities live with strength and determination along with daily challenges. I have six physical and chronic impairments. It hurts! Here’s what I’ve learned from having a disability:
1. We can smile and laugh at ourselves.
I use humor as a way of accepting my disability and turning a negative into a positive. Humor is a part of my well-being. I think if we don’t laugh we will cry. There are many times when I’ve had to laugh at myself when I lost balance and fell in a not-so-gracious way.
2. Happiness is possible in a “broken” body.
Before having a stroke I held stereotypical views about disability. Having a disability doesn’t mean we curl up and wait to die. In fact, I can choose to be happy. I have found happiness through relationships, positive self-talk, and achieving goals while living in the community.
3. Our improved ability to prioritize—Don’t sweat the small stuff!
What do you classify as most important? For me, I prioritize getting my prescription filled over getting takeaways, and I prioritize working on the ability to walk instead of rehabilitating the function of my left arm.
4. Understanding that life can change in a minute.
Disability can impact your career. I used to work as a Youth Worker, but since my stroke, I have had to change careers because of fatigue and physical limitations. Life is short. Embrace everything.
5. Having a disability can be an opportunity.
Since my stroke, I wrote my autobiography, and I have a blog teaching resilience and what life is like living with chronic illness and disability. You can learn to become your own advocate as you negotiate life’s challenges, using your disability as an opportunity to teach others. Knowledge is power, so the more you know the better educator you are.
Another opportunity is you having the capacity to give back. For example, maybe you’re a good listener and your friends know they can count on you when they need someone to talk to. Even things as small as a thank-you card or a genuine compliment.
6. Being an individual is cool.
Most people don’t like being different or standing out. Being the same as others is boring! Your disability makes you unique. I have tattoos of my multiple surgeries, including a brain that represents my stroke, and is on my left, which is the side that has been affected. When you live the life as someone who’s different, you learn right away it has its cool moments, such as meeting amazing people and finding special opportunities.
7. Vulnerability is a superpower.
Being weak or disabled isn’t a negative. Living with a disability, you learn to put your guard down, accept that you need help with certain tasks, and come to realize that we all need help in our own way.
I might have ghosted someone too, before I had a disability. Having a disability has changed my perspective.
To the men who are interested until I tell them I’m disabled, why are you afraid of someone who has a disability? You don’t even know me, so why discriminate?
We are more than what you think. You could learn from someone with a disability, just like I did.
Getty image by alvarez