The problem with the word ‘disabilities.’

26 Sep

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” -Fred Rogers

Due to the presence of a new person in my life, I’m slowly beginning to understand what has set me apart from so many others with a similar disability (and even those who are non-disabled): my drive. Yesterday, this particular new person in my life said: “You have incredible drive. It’s what I like about you. If you’re standing at the bottom of a hill and you know that you’ve got to get to the top, you’re going to find a way to reach the top, even if it means that you have to push yourself harder than ever before. I admire that so much.”

Even though I’ve known that I’ve had an incredibly strong drive for the majority of my life, giving up or walking away from something just because it’s hard has been something that I don’t consider often simply because in my mind, in terms of my disability, I’ve never had another option. I pushed through because I had to. However, due to the current new person in my life, I’m beginning to see that my drive has the potential to help not just me, but so many others around me as well. Also, over the last few months as I have done more introspection, I have come to understand that focusing on my abilities is a much better way to live rather than focusing on the ways that I am limited on a daily basis. Though that may sound obvious, I can’t tell you how easy it is to slip into the hole of self-pity. Even though for my entire life I have never wanted to accept pity from others, I place so much pity on myself through my own thoughts and actions. Maybe that has to do with my low self-esteem or something else. However, I have a gut feeling that this new person in my life has the ability to change many of the negative outlooks that I’ve had towards myself for so long.

Though I may say that I have a physical disability on a regular basis, maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things. Maybe I should be focusing on the things that I’m able to do rather than those that I can’t. I know from personal experience that this is so much easier said than done. However, when a new person has come into my life who thinks so highly of me, I owe it to both of us to at least try.

14 Responses to “The problem with the word ‘disabilities.’”

  1. Charlotte September 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Amelia I love your attitude. You are going to do great things!

  2. Errign September 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Is this new person a boy?! Hope so 🙂

    I think you’re right – by categorizing people by their disability, it makes it hard to focus on ABILITIES and the many wonderful things people rock at.

  3. Jennifer Stuart September 26, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Yay 🙂 🙂
    I’m very happy for you! Sometimes there’s nothing like a little validation to really help us see how powerful, strong, and uplifting we already are, and to see how much more of those things we could be as well. I’m so happy that that is happening right now for you! Wishing you the best!

  4. treadmarkz September 26, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    there do tend to be very driven, and very lethargic disabled people. I teeter back and forth, of late

    • ameliaclaire92 September 27, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      I too have seen both kinds. I think it has a lot to do with the support system you have or haven’t had around you as well as the general outlook you have towards yourself. Though I often do slip into self-pity, it is because of my incredible family and friends as well as my desire to help others that gives me my drive.

  5. Carrie September 26, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    This is a great reflection, Amelia. The one thing I have in this strange and amazing journey – labels/words of description never kept the same meaning forever. As a child I grew accustom to the term handicapped or cripple. Years and hard work began to change perception and language. And like anything else, words cannot contain all there is to know about ourselves and the people who are drawn to us.
    I hope you find delight in discovering more about yourself through the eyes of another!!

  6. Lisa W. Rosenberg September 27, 2012 at 12:58 am #

    When you write about and talk about CP, I don’t think you are focusing on the wrong things. I love your writings about CP, For Grace, etc, because they are so true and full of passion. Though there is so much more to you, I think having physical challenges is an important piece of your identity. Possibly, it’s what inspired you to write in the first place? What comes through–and I can only speak about this blog, which is what I know of you–is your ability to use words, and yes–your drive! It is truly inspiring.

    And I love the Mr. Rogers Quote!

    • ameliaclaire92 September 27, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Lisa, thank you for your support. However, it is important to point out that often my view when I write about my CP on this blog is a bit different from my own inner thoughts. I feel like this is the case because when I write about my CP here I often have a different focus than when I am simply reflecting on my life. It’s almost as if on this blog I know that I want to help others with disabilities to realize that they are not alone etc. However, when I am alone with my thoughts, that is often the time that self-pity creeps in. It’s hard not to let it creep in since in many situations I am reminded of the things that I am not able to do.

  7. AT Dad September 27, 2012 at 1:04 am #

    This reminds me of something I heard Dr Kristin Rytter, PhD once say about her own experience with CP. She talked about the power and freedom that comes with the word “can’t”. Essentially, once she accepted what she can’t do because of her disability she could move past it and figure out a different way to accomplish the larger goal. For example, once she (and her therapy team) accepted that she can’t point with her hand or arm she could move past it and create a system of pointing with her eyes. Something must be working for her. She accepted a lot of can’ts and moved past them on her way to a PhD in Developmental Psychology from the University of Washington. It sounds like you have a similar perspective and drive!

    • ameliaclaire92 September 27, 2012 at 10:34 am #

      I’ve never heard of Dr. Kristin Rytter. I’ll definitely have to look into work that she’s done. Thank you for the suggestion.

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