From Stairs To Ramps: Finding My Identity As A Man On A Wheelchair

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I am often asked how I felt when I was told that I would never walk again. For me, there is no definite answer to a question of such magnitude. For starters, that conversation never happened. I don’t remember the doctor approaching my bedside and explaining the anatomy of the spine and how an injury such as the one I had was going to affect my future. I have no recollection of the exact moment I got wind of the fact that I was going to be paralyzed for life.

Because I never had full knowledge of what lay ahead, I lived my days hoping that I would slowly regain my strength and get back on my feet. Looking back, this was misleading hope; I was praying for a river to flow upstream. At the time, however, it was all I had. This hope; false or not, gave me a firm grip on life; as long as I kept believing that I could get better, I was willing to hold on for one more day. The mind you see has the power to see something where nothing exists.

But life is more than just holding on. For you to truly live, you need to let go of your fears and embrace the thrill of not knowing what lies ahead. Adjusting to the new life was the obvious struggle. It’s like my essence had been downloaded from my earlier body and uploaded into a foreign one.

Finding the right balance between wanting to live a full life and being aware that you are not the same as before can pose a challenge. On one hand, you want to be treated the same as before; like nothing ever changed. On the other hand, you cannot separate the wheelchair from your identity. How then would you expect people to see you as the same person when in all conceivable ways, you are not.

Think about it from this perspective; Trevor Noah was born of a white father and an African mother. With that knowledge, we label him “Biracial” because he is neither black nor white. Its, however, was not so easy for him to find his identity. Being biracial is too neutral, you don’t want to stand on the fence for the rest of your life. Eventually, even Trevor will at some point have to identify as either a black man or a white one. That being said, each decision he makes will be followed by some consequences. Similarly, for my own wellbeing and self-awareness, I have to decide whether I am a man or a disabled man.

Though it might seem like an obvious choice, it really isn’t. If I say I am just a man and choose not to acknowledge this huge part of my life, will it be an honest description of who I truly am? Being self-aware of who you are demands that you see beyond commonalities; what sets you apart from the next man? Some will identify as mothers, artists, Christians, leaders, teachers… What defines your essence?

I choose to wear this disability on my sleeves; like a proud badge to show that spine injury didn’t win. In my opinion, repressing it and acting like I am one of you able-bodied guys will do me more harm than good because honestly, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Assuming that you don’t see my disability and treating me like I never changed is also a mistake. See me as I am because this is my reality and it isn’t likely to change soon. Feel free to challenge to expand my mind and get out of my comfort zone but also understand that when I say I have limits; it doesn’t mean that I am conceding to paralysis. It is not a weakness, its awareness. I can no longer drown five bottles of beer and stay out in the rain. Acting like I can will be telling myself a big fat lie. Here is the next part From Stairs To Ramps: When Disabled People Are Given Medals For Just Showing Up, You Are Not Helping Us

From Stairs To Ramps: Facing Misconceptions About Disability And Intimacy

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