Disability: Unpacking Stigmas, Misconceptions & Truths

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Recently, I just received a handicap placard for my car. Now, to know me is to know the struggle I’ve had with accepting anything related to disability and handicap. So much so that it took me 9 months to get that placard for my car though I had clearance from my doctor for quite some time.

Throughout this process, I’ve made what I believe is a common mistake of looking at my limitations as something to be ashamed of. From my limp, to the use of a motorized cart in the store, or the need for a cane; I have found myself shrinking out of some stigmatized notion that the things I’m experiencing are somehow something to be frowned upon.

For months I’ve been trying to get to the root of why I felt so strongly about my circumstances. The more I dug, the more I unpacked and the more I realized how societal standards have influenced my thoughts.

Disabled as defined by Merriam-Webster:

(adjective) of a person) having a physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, or activities.

Now by this very definition alone, it seems harmless enough. However, when you begin to incorporate human flawed thinking; that’s where the spiral down the rabbit hole of shame kicks in.

Being a woman in a fat body, I am well aware of the assumptions that are made about me purely based on my appearance. Add a disability into the mix? The implications about my character take on an whole new level of degradation.

Knowing what society feels about fat people definitely crept into my thinking. My pride began to swell up in an act of defiance. For nearly 2 years I faked through my pain. Made excuses, hid my discomfort and cried in private. It was a humiliating experience, but for what? Because I allowed the potential opinions of others to corrupt how I viewed my situation.

I should’ve bought the cane when my orthopedic doctor told me I first needed it. I should have gotten the handicap placard when I was first authorized for one.I should have admitted to my limitations instead of trying to power through them. For months I attended events, social functions, work etc. reeling from pain but forcing a smile; only to come home and collapse from pain.

My one big regret in this is not caring for myself the way I should have.

Grieving the loss of one’s mobility is a normal process, and it’s one I’m still working through on a daily basis. But I think I’m at the point where I’ve come to accept my new way of life.

For awhile I danced around using the word disabled or disability. Like if I said it, it would somehow make it true. But it is true. And it’s not the end of the world. I am not broken, or useless, or just some fat person who did this to themselves.

I am a normal person who has a limitation that I didn’t use to have before.

If you know me personally, then it’s important that you know, I do not want your sympathy. I will take your empathy, your encouragement, your hugs, your love, your friendship; but do not feel sorry for me.

I’ve worked so hard not to feel sorry for myself; don’t you dare waste a drop of pity on me.

I am going to be just fine with my disability.

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