Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Changing mindsets

Today's guest post is by Network member, Andrew Shortall. He was diagnosed with XLH at age two, and has become a self-taught chef, wine business person and a writer, with aspirations to become a novelist. 

“Wait, I’m not disabled!”

How familiar is that statement among XLH patients? Very! Or at least it is in my life. While I understand and accept that I have a life altering condition, I’ve always been stubbornly proud and hesitant to admit that I do indeed have a disability or handicap. The same stubborn pride that I’ve seen in other XLH patients; the thing that drives us all forward and never allows us to give up on ourselves or each other.

However, as I grow older and my condition progresses, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to continue saying I don’t have anything more than physical limitations. The truth of the matter is, while my condition isn’t as serious as others, I do in fact, have a physical disability.  

But, accepting that truth doesn’t mean I have to give up my stubborn pride!

It is a streak that makes me always want to do things for myself. I carry my own laundry basket. I drive a car with a manual shifter and no control modifications. I can cook, clean house, maintain the car and do a multitude of other things that a more severely disabled person might not be able to do. For that, I’m hugely grateful. Yet, I must still accept that there are a great many things that I am simply physically incapable of doing.

I cannot walk for long distances, let alone run. When I’m working in the kitchen, I have to sit down every so often. These, and others, are things I cannot do. I do not have the physical ability for them. That’s basically what a disability is, and exactly what I’ve been trying to get my head around these past months and years.

It truly bothers me that handicap and disability is so heavily stigmatized. In a world where equality is at the forefront of daily life, we still have inequality and discrimination towards those who aren’t “normal.” Perhaps that’s why it has been so difficult for me to accept that I have a disability. Because of the perceived stigma attached.

What I do know is that we must strive to show people that while we may have a physical disability or handicap, they don’t change who we are as humans. They don’t make us less useful or relevant in modern society.

This change in mindset came about for me because a friend asked what government benefits I receive for my disability. Which is when I exclaimed, “wait, I’m not disabled!” Their acceptance of me and the things I can do made me realize that while I am disabled, I am still relevant and useful. And that will make it easier for me to accept the help I will most certainly need in the future.

I have to accept that my physical limitations are now disabilities. Yes, I am disabled. And I’m okay with that!

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