Sounds like such a stupid question. Me, the one living with Multiple Sclerosis for the last nearly 13 years, but almost every morning I wake up thinking, “Just give me a second. I’ll jump out of bed and get moving.” Silly right? But, my dreams play a small part in this deluded thought. Stupid dreams! I still walk in them, how deceptive and unfair is that?
Since I met Dan, I have never walked. But in my dreams, we often walk together into crazy, nonsensical adventure all of the time – hey, dreams don’t have to, and trust me, mine don’t, make sense. And I guess it’s good that I still walk in them because it reminds me what I’m fighting for. I believe, I HAVE to believe, I will walk again!
But am I really disabled?
You’d think, the wheelchair or the reality I can no longer roll over in bed, or get to toilet without help might tell me. But, un-uh. Still don’t see myself that way. As for those little blue wheelchair signs designating handicapped parking spots and restrooms, those are just signs. That’s not me!
This lack of acceptance, i.e. denial, might explain my constant frustration and frequent tearful outbursts when no one is looking. But those are mine to live with and deal with, and pity is certainly not acceptable or being asked for.
But again I ask, am I really disabled?
Recently, I was asked by the office of Student Disability Services to tell the Facilities Management staff at Central Michigan University how they could improve the handicap accessibility of their buildings. Guess that should’ve been a clue, but truly, it was the 2 women in wheelchairs I met that night that made me doubt the genuineness of my disability.
They were also providing the FM staff valuable feedback on building improvements. Only they were sharing stories of cruising their power chairs around campus, or through town, the daily difficulties of riding public transportation, or having to replace worn out wheels.
I couldn’t relate. After all, I ride in my van and can’t imagine driving my chair enough to wear out my wheel’s tread. Really, I’m only kind of disabled.
But when they started talking about getting stuck in the snow or having slippery wheels from said snow and about hard to open power assist doors. I started to relate.
Then the topic turned to the best handicap bathrooms on campus. And when we all knowingly exclaimed, “Library. Definitely the library.” It started to sink in. I was with my peers.
Sure my MS support group is full of people who understand this disease, but none of our regulars use a wheelchair. And Dan, he provides tremendous support and understanding. But it was in that room; with those women in wheelchairs that it began to be okay.
Yes, I really am disabled. And after not walking for the past 8 years, you are probably thinking, “Well duh! Finally.” But for the first time, I felt comfortable enough to say, “I am disabled.” (of course with the caveat, ”I make disabled look good!”)
And maybe now, I’ll even be okay with photos of me in my chair. Um … probably not. Call me vain, but I’m thinking I’ll still probably crop it out.