My peers and I often have debates about disability and what changes it has brought into our lives. They are usually honest and quite candid conversations where we delve into our deepest thoughts and feelings…. these are the things we normally don’t show or talk about with the people around us. The idea is to engage with someone who has seen the same things you have; we are looking for comradely, a sense that we are not alone in our pain.
One of the topics that always comes up when we have our talks is a question; “is it easier when you are born with a disability than it is when you get disabled later in life?” Most of us have gotten our disabilities later in life through accidents and illnesses. I guess we wonder if it could have been better if we didn’t know a life different from the one we now live.
In my earlier posts, I have talked about how oblivious I was about the realities and plight of disabled people before I joined the club some six years ago. My life took a dramatic turn that February and I haven’t been the same man since. Mine is a severe disability where I have little use of my upper limbs and zero movements or sensation in my feet. My fingers are unresponsive to any kind of stimuli and I have no feeling anywhere below my nipples. People like me identify as quadriplegics or “Quads” in short, google us.
If I was born with this disability, I think I would be quite different from what I am today. I believe that life experiences are truly what shape a person’s character and mindset. From a young age, we pick up data from the people and things around us, how we interpret our environment constitutes our reaction to life.
For me, I react to life based on two scenarios. On one side, I look at things through my past when I was able-bodied, on the other side, I weigh situations from a disabled person’s perspective. For instance, when I see my friends driving; my mind instantly takes me back to when I used to drive, I miss it because I know I won’t drive like that again. Having lived a huge part of my life able-bodied is a blessing as much as it is a curse. I have all these wonderful memories about the things I did but sometimes the same memories tie me down to a reality that no longer exists.
Holding on to the past is a comforting feeling that is inviting and non-threatening. The past rarely demands anything from us, neither does it ever ask us any questions. Instead, it lets us take a step backwards. While living in the past, we reminisce about what was and obsess about what could have been.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter if you were born disabled or you suffered your disability at thirty. Your ability to adjust to the situation will be the true defining factor of the quality of life you will live. The sooner you can break free from a past that doesn’t contribute positively to your present life, the easier it will be to find hope in the future. I hope that my peers and I will one day achieve this level of awareness. Life is for living and therefore we should not allow it to be marred by feelings of guilt, regret and wishful thinking. This life is for living.
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