What I Am and What I Am Not
Today, I sat in a cultural proficiency teacher training designed to raise awareness of cultural differences and stereotypes.
The class did an exercise in which we filled in the sentence: “I am_____ and I am not ____.” This got me thinking about how people see others who have a disability. People often judge based on what they see at first glance: clothes, hairstyle, shoes, walking style, and disability. They might not think that there is much more to a person.
My sentence was: “I am disabled and I am not helpless.” Yes, I may need help doing certain things. Yes, I may drop things or trip over “thin air.” Yes, I wear ankle-foot orthosis to help me walk and balance. Yes, I have an awkward gait at times and steep steps scare me. However, this is not all that I am, and it does not define who I am.
I am learning that those who truly matter know my disability is not my full identity and that they do not care if I need help. In fact, they often are the first ones to offer. I am starting to accept those offers more and more. It is not always easy to admit I need help, but it’s becoming more comfortable. This is tough, as I want to be an independent woman who does not need any help from others. I know that is pretty unrealistic. Everyone needs help at some point. But I don’t want to be seen as “helpless.” I want to do things myself. I know that with a progressive disorder like CMT, this is not always possible. Asking for help does not make me helpless or incapable. It just says I need a little extra help (OK, sometimes a lot) to complete a task.
I am thankful for friends who understand my situation and do not make a big deal out of the fact that I need assistance. They love me for me and accept my disability without question. They know that I am disabled and I am not helpless.
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