Before writing this, I contemplated using the term “Disabled” instead of “Differently Able”. Disabled is the general term used to describe a person with a physical or mental condition that limits their movement or activities. Personally, I dislike the term ‘Disabled’, it just sounds negative to me. “To disable something, you render it useless,” those were my thoughts, this isn’t how I’d like to label myself.
My life changed after having a spinal bleed as a result of an AVM. Please google it if you would like to know the scientific details. As a result, I temporarily lost the ability to walk but later regained full strength in my legs. I also lost some functions of my right hand which I have yet to regain.
I went from a girl who could braid her own hair to someone who could no longer write with her right hand. For a while, I seemed to be coping well with the drastic changes and was emotionally stable until the reality of the impact of what had happened started to surface in my daily activities.
The first reminder that life was no longer the same occurred when I returned to University after taking a year out for rehabilitation. I began to notice that people would stare at me as I struggled to open a bottled water or chop an onion. I started to care. I meticulously planned activities that I knew I would struggle with but it didn’t always go as planned. I declined invitations to events with old friends who were not aware of what had happened to avoid having to have that conversation. I experienced several moments of panic whenever I had to do something that required me to use my hands. I recall missing the train once, whilst travelling with friends because I was struggling to pick up the coins to pay for my ticket. My mood was ruined that day, i was upset with myself, why couldn’t I do basic things anymore. I remember crying before getting the next available train but quickly wiping my tears to avoid drawing attention to myself.
My self-esteem started depleting. I was no longer that social butterfly, the girl who would always volunteer to do things in lectures. I avoided anything that would draw attention to my right hand, this went as far as refusing to do my nails because i felt it no longer looked pretty with my not so aesthetically pleasing bent fingers. Pictures now required strategic management, I would stand with my right hand hidden at my back and put on a smile so no one would notice .
I could continue this narration but I feel the point of this post would be lost in you feeling sorry for me. Instead, I’d like to leave you with something positive. It has taken years to come to terms with what happened to me and whilst opening up about my feeling and fear has elevated the stress and build up of negative emotions. I am aware that there are the unknowns that I may never be comfortable with but I choose to focus on to deal the present and use the lessons from the past to prepare me for the future.
It’s pretty accurate to say I have developed resilience, the kind that continues to help me through various hurdles. There are no how to guides for dealing with sudden change like what I went through but like many forms of trauma burying the memories or hiding from the pain doesn’t tend to end well and can have a negative impact of your mental health. I am determined to create a positive outcome from what to many looks like a negative/ sad experience.
The truth is the transition has not being easy and there have been numerous tears shed, anger, frustration and regret felt. I mourned the loss of the old me and started the process of creating a new identity, one that is reflective of the person i have become.
This experience has thought me a lot about myself but also about others around me. Losing just one essential skill can be life shaking but your body will always find a way to adapt. There was a time when I couldn’t do some buttons on some of my favourite dresses but now I can skillfully use my left hand to do them. I also learned to write with my left although I wouldn’t win any awards for best handwriting.
In all this, I learnt that you only become defeated when you let a problem speak for/overshadow you. Do not be embarrassed by your struggles instead own it. Recently a friend noticed that I typed in a strange way, and innocently she said: “why do you do your hands like that.” In that moment I almost froze as this is a person I had thought was aware of my problem but instead of panicking I simply explained.
The journey continues.
“Strength is built in increments,which in the long term builds character“TillyJoanAdams
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