Fighting for respect with my disabilities
You know what the worst part of a disability is? It’s not the actual disability itself whatever it may be. At least that’s it in my case. It’s the complete loss of the person you once were not only to yourself, but more importantly (again, at least in my case) to others.
You see, I can handle what I’ve been faced with. OK, I can’t walk or talk right anymore. I can’t write my name very well. Simple things like brushing my teeth, holding a fork, writing a check and even speaking are difficult tasks. I struggle to do what I’m able and being a former athlete and respected business man as well as a human man, facing these realities is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced. What’s worse is how I’m seen by the world and the people around me. Because of my need for a wheelchair, and the fact that it’s hard for people to understand what I’m saying and therefore, hold a discussion, people tend to avoid me. It’s easier for them.
My opinions are disregarded. I’m no longer relevant. Shopkeepers and restaurateurs talk to me like I have lost my mental capacity as well. What I say is irrelevant, I have no mind of my own, I’m a pain to you so therefore just toss me aside. Family and friends do the same. Before my disability I was well-respected with a long line of people that I hired and mentored that became highly successful in their own right. I was sought out to speak at universities. I was put in charge of doing things others couldn’t – and succeeded. I faced – and confronted many huge obstacles – and succeeded and failed. I still face the same struggles as any man with a family that isn’t disabled like me. Now, it’s like pulling teeth to get anyone to listen and simply talk to me.
Hey people…I’m the SAME FUCKING PERSON I was before! But my legs just don’t fucking work like yours!
I’ve had to crawl on my hands and knees to get into a non-handicapped accessible restroom. How’s that for fucking degrading? Did I whine and bitch and throw a hissy fit? No, I did what I had to do – and got looked at as if I were the crazy one. If this all sounds like whining to you – so be it. I have to say this.
“Blind leading the blind” I was told by a supposed “family” member as I offered and watched over my father-in-law who is blind and two days short of major cancer surgery while my own wife lay in a hospital bed suffering from pneumonia. I did what I could…human instinct. I still have a mind. Maybe not to your standards anymore, but I still have all my wits. I know how to help and I know how to teach. I don’t know everything, but I know how to share my experiences and help those in need. I ask for no help – I’ll get along fine – I’m the same as you dammit, I just can’t walk or talk right anymore. Sometimes I’d rather stop living this stunted physical life than deal with how I’m perceived by the rest of the world, but no, my mind tells me, do what you know is right – as you have preached to others – and face the facts head-on. That’s what keeps me going. I have others who need guidance and the help I so desperately need and must give as the man I am so I continue – it’s all I have. Take it, berate it, laugh and dismiss it…but you’re also dismissing me as a person. That’s fine if it’s your wish -I’ll deal with it.
Please people, I beg of you, If you care, accept me and my struggles and the same for all others with disabilities. I’d love to be able to throw a curveball like I did before, I’d love to enunciate my words properly. I’d love to be able to take a shower, simply walk or swim in the ocean again, but these things won’t happen, however, I’d love to be respected again…and that is out of my control. That is up to you.
In the words of John Merrick, the Elephant Man, “I am NOT an animal!” I am still me, I have all my wits and I’m doing all I can…please, try to find a small amount of respect for me so that I may feel a wee little bit like some sort of man again.
I beg you.