Today has been just a regular day, nothing exciting or amazing, a coffee with my husband, an appointment and a workout followed by a cup of tea and a cuddle with my cat. The sun will set soon and with it the passing of another anniversary of my “second” life. 41 years as a wheelchair user. There are so many moments (and people) in the years since then that have shaped me into who and what I am now.
My memories of those early days, my six months in rehab are tinged with a touch of sadness… that moment when the Doctor talks to you about the fact that you will never walk again…which for me was not really a surprise. I knew that my injuries were serious, however being told this when you are 15, by a specialist standing by your bed with an entourage of student doctors standing outside the curtains listening was not something I will ever forget.
I had a little cry, and thought about basic things… wanting my mum and dad, how was I going to play basketball? would I ever ride a horse again? what would happen now? But I also remember knowing that one thing was certain… I did not want to miss out on anything. That I felt the same as I always had, and I just wasn’t sure what “being disabled” was meant to feel like.
So, I remember that early sadness and fear of the unknown. I remember that younger me, full of anxiety and trepidation. I look back and am thankful that I was naïve about how little the world expected from this new “disabled” me, and what limits society would put on where, as a person with disability I was and wasn’t meant to go in my life.
It has been a long and complicated path of letting go of the life I had lost, of unlearning internalised ableism and other unconscious biases I hold, have led me to the place I am today.
“It has been a long and complicated path of letting go of the life I had lost, of unlearning internalised ableism and other unconscious biases I hold, have led me to the place I am today”
There are so many moments since then that I get lost in as I reminisce and write this, and as this day draws to a close, I feel thankful, that I listened to my inner voice that said “you are enough”.
Thankful that I had critical conversations about disability and how it is portrayed, perceived, and promoted with others who taught me how to speak up and not be afraid to want and ask for more than what was offered to me.
I am grateful also, to so many people between now and then, who have been in my corner and willing to share their journey to help make mine easier and am so lucky that I have the fortune of your friendships.
My takeaways from life so far are this….
• Disability is ok
• Asking for what is rightfully yours is ok
• Standing up to be counted is ok
• Times will be tough, but so are you
• Not everyone is going to like what you have to say
• You are not always going to find a loo when you need one
• Its ok to ask for help when you need it
• The world wasn’t built accessible. ..don’t let that stop you
• Kindness is universal
• Humour is a lifesaver
• When you find your voice and are able to use it – DO