The lovely Lana at Living it, Loving it brought to my attention that today is Bloggers Unite, “Empowering People With Disabilities”. Thanks, Lana! If it weren’t for you, I may have never known about this. Those with disabilities or those that love them are encouraged to raise awareness by sharing their experiences about living with a disability by blogging about it. This is certainly a theme worth writing about because when one is disabled, they feel anything but empowered, they often feel powerless. When my former rheumatologist told me during my first visit with him that I had rheumatoid arthritis, that there was no known cure, no known cause and chances of remission were very slim, I felt the rug yanked out from under me and the breath knocked out of me. I instantly felt powerless. Powerless to control what was going on in my body and what my doctor said was going to happen to my body. Powerless to be the wife and mother I wanted to be. Powerless to simply do and be all that I hoped I could be.
As we all know, disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. There are those that are visible and more than obvious to everyone they encounter. And there are those that are invisible. As one who suffers from an invisible illness, which rears it’s ugly head of disability without any warning, I have dealt with struggles that have taken place within myself, with my doctors and in my relationships with others. It hasn’t been easy. I have moaned and cried, thrown a few pity parties, prayed, pleaded and have seen relationships suffer as a result of my disease.
When you struggle with a disability, you often face criticism and judgement. It can come from perfect strangers, co-workers, friends, loved ones, and medical professionals. I have felt the judgement of friends that might as well just roll their eyes right in front of me when they ask me how I am doing. I don’t like to tell most friends how I am doing anymore because they either make me feel like a fraud, offer suggestions or cures that belittle what I am struggling with or criticize the way I have handled my disease. I have even felt like some that care about me believe that I have brought this on myself. I explored this road and it brings with it a lot of hurt and pain. It’s not to say that our psyches can’t wreak havoc on our systems. But I no longer believe for a second that I have been the sole cause of my disease.
Now that I deal with pain on some level everyday and have to use a handicap placard on particularly difficult days (when I used to be the girl that parked as far as possible for a little extra exercise), I notice everyone that walks with a limp, crutches or a cane, or must maneuver themselves around in a wheelchair. My heart cries out to them. But most people don’t notice my disability. (Which quite honestly, I am thankful for. I could do without the added criticism, judgement and sympathy.) And although I appear healthy and able to the outside world, on most days it hurts when I walk, when I get dressed in the morning, when I cook, when I shower, when I carry my baby, etc. This brings with it a feeling of loneliness and isolation at times. And when those that are disabled must also struggle to work and live and get the support they need from friends, family and government in addition to these feelings, it can feel like an awfully unpleasant world to live in at times. This is why the need for greater awareness is critical.
In the midst of this though, I believe we have the ability to feel powerful. For me, this has come from discovering that I am bigger than my disease. It does not define me, what I love and what I believe. I’ve had to dig deep within my spirit and that has brought power. Power to be brave despite the uncertainty of my future now that I have been diagnosed with a lifelong disease, power to accept that this is my new norm, power to let go of the things I can no longer do. But most importantly for me, dealing with a disability has brought me closer to Christ than I have ever been before. And that’s what I call power!
Blessings to everyone dealing with disabilities and those that love them.