Accepting being disabled was a difficult thing for me. I’m not talking about actually being disabled, but rather accepting the term itself. In my last post I talked about being independent, doing everything on my own, not accepting help, hating help. For the longest time, I also hated the terms disabled and handicapped. I tried thinking of a better word for my condition, but couldn’t think of a good one. I remember the best one I could come up with was less fortunate, or unfortunate. I am unfortunate, what happened to me was extremely fucked up and unlucky, but that doesn’t describe the extent of things. People that don’t win the lottery are less fortunate than people that win. It just doesn’t work for people that get hit by speeding SUVs, break every rib in their body, become paralyzed and sustain traumatic brain injuries.
I have always liked to do everything on my own, being able to function my legs or not. So the terms, disabled and handicapped never sat well with me. I’m a pretty low injured paraplegic; I can still use all of my core muscles. I basically just lost my leg muscles. Sure, your legs are more powerful than your arms, but whatever, my arms are only going to get bigger. I mean, I will never be able to play soccer again, or snowboard, there are activities and sports that I for sure can no longer do, but as far as everyday life goes. I get doors myself, I get into my car and pull my chair in myself, If I drop something I can pick it up just fine, I drove 4 hours and stayed in hotels myself all summer, I can even go down stairs myself. “I’m not disabled, I can do whatever the fuck I want,” I thought.
About 3 weeks ago, my family and I drove to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my brother and sister in-law at their new house. Their house was the first place I stayed overnight that had no accessible shower. “I’ll figure something out,” I made myself believe. We brought a shower chair of mine that I sit on while showering. It eventually came time for me to get a shower. For probably 15 minutes, I sat outside the shower trying to think of the best way to set up. I positioned myself outside the shower this way, that way, every possible way. “Uh, yeah I don’t think I can get myself in here,” I said very disappointedly. This shower was different than normal showers. The shower had a trapezoidal shape with a skinny door in the center and small step up from the bathroom floor, but no able-bodied person would ever have a problem using it. If only the bathroom were a little bigger for me to properly position my wheelchair, or if there were something hanging from the ceiling that i would allow me to support my body weight from above (like hanging ropes). “Alright quit being ridiculous, this bathroom is average sized, and no sane person keeps ropes hanging from their bathroom ceilings,” I told myself. “I can’t do it. I can’t fucking do it,” I reluctantly admitted. My dad ended up piggy backing me onto my shower chair, but that’s besides the point. The point is, I accepted that there still were things that I could have done had I not been injured. I guess the terms handicapped and disabled do fit, although I still don’t like either one.
This is getting to be pretty long, I’ll add another couple of paragraphs as part 2 of this post next time.