On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we are privileged to feature a heartfelt and inspirational blog post written by a PAPYRUS staff member who has navigated life with a disability, celebrating their journey towards self-acceptance and the incredible ways in which their disability has positively influenced their life. This blog acts as an example of personal growth and resilience, offering valuable insights into the power of embracing our uniqueness and finding beauty in diversity. Join us as we delve into this extraordinary narrative that reminds us of the strength that can be found within our differences.
I couldn’t have agreed more when I first heard the phrase “the disability community is the best kept secret”, as I have first-hand witnessed this.
I was born with a physical disability, and while medical procedures were much of my childhood, not being treated differently was the gold standard. Everyone aimed to treat me the same as everyone else.
No one was to ever address how I couldn’t take part in school sports days or how I would miss school for weeks at a time to be in hospital. While I’m grateful for the protection from discrimination that I enjoyed during my formative years — something that not everyone is as fortunate to experience — the transition to the outside world was quite a shock.
I had never embraced my disability and the ways it made me unique. I wanted to continue hiding it, pretending it didn’t exist and that I didn’t need any extra support. This often led to overexertion and pain. If only I had honoured my body, recognised what it needed and embraced what I could do, I would’ve made my own life a lot easier and less painful, but I didn’t want to be seen as different.
Today, after years of living a life where I made things more difficult for myself to avoid being held back, I see how my disability sets me apart. It provides me with a unique perspective and motivates me to challenge societal norms more than an able-bodied individual might. I relish the deep level of introspection it has granted me. I love that the bike I ride is a hand bike. I love how I have learned to adapt my kitchen so I can bake and fulfil the hobbies I have always wanted to do. I love how I can communicate what my body needs.
Embracing my disability doesn’t mean I’m exempt from facing challenges in an able-bodied world. I still find myself mourning the physical abilities I’ve never had. I mourn the hikes I could take with friends. I mourn standing and dancing at concerts. I mourn fitting the mould of a physically abled society. However, connecting with the disability community has provided a space to confront these feelings, share experiences, and alleviate the isolation.
I discovered this community by joining my university’s disability society and seeking out disabled writers and creators who openly share their experiences. Seeing disabilities represented in the online world, within my friendships, and even in my hobbies helped me to heal the shame I had been carrying.
The disability community really is the best-kept secret.
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