Before writing this, I contemplated using the term “Disabled” instead of “Unable”. 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.
4 years ago I suffered 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 long time, I seemed to be coping well with the drastic changes and was emotionally stable until I came back to University.
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 could struggle with but it didn’t always work out. I had moments of panic at the train station when traveling with friends I had missed the train because I was struggling to pick up the coins to pay for my ticket because of the poor dexterity of my right hand.
I felt my self-esteem 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 hand. 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 text would be lost in you feeling sorry for me. Instead, I’d like to leave you with something positive. I have confronted my issues and I am comfortable with the idea that sometimes I will struggle but I cannot allow those moments define who I am.
The transition has not being easy and at times I cried and declined the invitation to gatherings with old friends who are not aware of what happened to avoid having to have that conversation but I realise now that I need to rebuild my confidence.
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 favorite 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 the problem speak for 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.
“People do not always notice the things you are insecure about so don’t drown yourself in worry.”
The journey continues.