July is Disability Pride Month as you may have heard, but I know for many people that seems like an odd statement. How can you be proud to have a disability? Aren’t you struggling? Isn’t living with a disability a challenge?
Well, these answers will differ for each person you ask. Let me share my two cents.
Coming to Terms with Disability
When I was young, I was so very stubborn. I never wanted to stand out, and those closest to me worked very hard to make me feel like everyone else around me. I think this probably benefited me in some ways and hindered me in others. I didn’t start to realize how bad my vision was compared to the average person until I was in high school. At that point, I realized my life’s path would look so very different from my peers’. I realized there were things I would never do or would do in a very different way.
It was at that point that I grieved a life I had imagined. This would not be the last time I would grieve the loss of something I would never know.
In my mid-twenties, I started to interact with people in the blind community and the disabled community. I learned so much from those interactions, and I started to learn more about how I saw myself.
I never saw myself as Disabled until that point. I explored what disability really was and what it would mean if I were to label myself “disabled.”
What Does Disabled Mean Anyway?
You could probably ask five different people what Disabled means and get five different answers. If you search for the word, you’ll get something like this definition:
adjective: (of a person) having a physical or mental condition that limits movements, senses, or activities.
In my life, it means that there will always be physical barriers for certain activities. The most notable of these in my life is my inability to drive. Where I live, that means that I have no way to travel independently, even for a short trip to get some groceries or to visit a nearby friend. I am limited in that area of my life, and that limitation affects nearly every other aspect of my life: work, hobbies, events, volunteer work, and more.
Many of my other barriers have workarounds: technology, magnifiers, techniques, and other tools. We’ll leave those for another article.
If It’s Challenging, Why Are You Proud?
Having pride or taking pride in myself means that I can recognize how far I’ve come despite the challenges. It doesn’t mean I’m done working. It doesn’t mean the challenges will stop. It doesn’t mean I’m happy to be disabled. It doesn’t mean that I want to be a disabled spokesperson or an inspiration. It means that I have worked hard to get to where I am, and I acknowledge that work. I’m proud to be the person I am. I accept the person I am, disabilities and all.
I’m done trying to hide my disability. I’m done trying to prove that I’m disabled enough. I’m done being afraid of the term disabled. And you should be too!
Being Proud Doesn’t End the Bad Days
Being proud doesn’t mean I have no bad days. Lately, I have more bad days than good ones, and sometimes that’s how it is. I’m sure many of you have noticed I’ve been absent here on Albinism Up Close, and that has a lot to do with my mental health. If you’re struggling in these trying times, you are not alone. It is an absurd time to be alive right now.
Even in the bad days, I can often find something in myself to be proud of, and that is what keeps pushing me forward. That pride in myself tells me that tomorrow might be a better day, and I will continue to believe that.
What are you proud of in your own life? Did you find friends and make connections because of your disability? How has embracing that label impacted your life? Or are you still deciding how that looks in your life?
Stay curious. Stay proud.