When I call myself disabled, sometimes it’s an explanation for reality or a reason for routine. It’s a guttural release of anger, annoyance, irritation and anxieties. It’s a badass badge honoring strength and determination. Other times it’s a scarlet letter so big and red I can’t control its flare.
When I call myself disabled, it’s a flinch, a stare, a questioning or inquisitive glare. Not any more from a passerby’s curious eye than from mine in my own mirror, counting my scars, marks and bruises, and wondering, “Where did this new one on my knee come from?”
When I call myself disabled, it’s constant tugging and pulling at my clothes, lamenting the fact that fighting with fabric is sometimes a losing battle; cotton, rayon, polyester and denim don’t always want to sit pretty on my sitting crooked body. It’s why I bought the Get Naked sign hanging in my apartment. It’s adjusting my legs, my spine and my neck, their muscles and bones lit up in fiery pain, so I’m sitting up as straight and tall as I can. It’s wishing to blend in seamlessly with the crowd while hoping to be seen.
When I call myself disabled, it’s acknowledging that life with autonomy, choices, experiences and opportunities isn’t an impossible dream, but it is a logistical nightmare. It’s a crash course in creative, out-of-the box thinking. It’s knowing adaptation and problem solving is a necessary, sometimes minute-by-minute part of this life.
When I call myself disabled, it’s a collection of experiences continuously tipping the scales between grief and gratitude. It’s grieving opportunities lost, access denied, relationships ended and abilities stolen. But it’s also gaining a healing gratitude for my heart and my eyes and my mind and my voice — that allows me to see the world through an ultra-compassionate lens, recognizing and renouncing injustices or inequalities. It increases my capacity for bonds and interconnections, forever tied through understanding and awareness.
When I call myself disabled, it is a fact; I can’t argue with reality. Instead I must surrender to my physical body; no matter if it’s slow, sluggish, riddled with pain and a serious fall risk, it is mine.
When I call myself disabled, it is a prideful truth, a deep satisfaction in all I have accomplished and achieved. It is a fear for my future but a celebration of my present.
When I call myself disabled, it is a battle cry to the army of disability warriors who surround me. It is a march in solidarity with the millions of people who know the injustice, who feel the inequality and who persevere through the struggle.
When I call myself disabled, it is knowing I am more than a label stuck on by opinion; I am me for so many reasons and there is no one else I’d rather be.