Earlier today, I was telling a story about how I rejected calling myself disabled for a long time. As fate would have it, The Mighty newsletter featured a post called, “When I Started Calling Myself Disabled.” Floored and completely interested, I read Holly Abel’s words. We had different stories, but two things were similar and they really stood out: The word “disabled” didn’t feel like it was our word, and finding and confirming her identity gave her strength.
YES! I literally almost screamed. Holly didn’t really elaborate on what either of those things meant, but for me, I instantly returned to being a 10-year-old girl isolated in a classroom. My peers were supposed to be my equals and yet I felt as if I were standing on the edge of a cliff. My classmates socialized with ease, but I felt like interacting with them would push me off the cliff into the icy water. It was that intense for me. I didn’t want to be disabled, I wanted to be “normal.” I would tell people I had cerebral palsy, and I could even explain it, if I had to, just to avoid using the word “disabled.”
I, like Holly, believed that if I identified with that term then all the hopes and dreams I had for myself would be impossible. (I remember clearly feeling like this as a 10-year-old!) I didn’t start finding myself until college. High school was difficult and I just did what I could to get through. Around my second year of college, I started to really share my life online. I wrote about everything ― and, to my surprise, people related to it. They understood me and embraced me! It was so exciting and it gave me so much confidence. I even started being paid. I was basically living my dream.
Still, “disabled” didn’t feel like MY word. In fact, it wasn’t until I had found the community full of disabled people who were, in a lot of ways, just like me. Before, I didn’t want to be disabled because I didn’t want to lose my dreams, and now that I had them, I felt like I was too lucky to be disabled. I found incredible love, acceptance, and strength logging onto the #Spoonie, #ChronicLife, and #SpoonieProblems hashtags on Twitter. Engaging in the discussions there, I made friends, I found support, and it ultimately helped me find my voice.
Honestly, Twitter helped me embrace my identity as a disabled person. I am a proud Spoonie. And that is why you should start calling yourself disabled. There is so much power in finding your identity. Finding and accepting myself brought such a comfort to me, I finally felt as though I could live within my body ― and I started to pay attention to how I treat it.
Every day is a work in progress. There is nothing wrong with accepting and embracing yourself, no matter who you are. Loving yourself is the best practice of self-care.
Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.