One of the most dangerous side effects of having a disability or a chronic illness is self-centeredness. It’s not necessarily a nature, but nurture that drags people like me into a hole wherein all we think about is ourselves.
Parents don’t prepare themselves for a child with special needs. Despite the grim outlook that our society often has, we become incredibly optimistic when a baby is about to come into the picture. Soon-to-be parents probably hear the phrase “happy and healthy” at least 7 million times before the aforementioned child makes an appearance. So with countless hopes and prayers cast into the universe, nervous new parents head to the hospital to bring new life into the world. But then, something happens. Call it fate, bad luck, the universe. Genetics. No matter what it is, it’s something. Something is wrong. The baby isn’t healthy and in the eyes of our current ableist society, will never obtain happiness.
This might sound familiar to parents of children with any kind of special need. From that moment on, the lives of both the parents and the child become consumed with fighting whatever “it” is. In addition, families often have to work incredibly hard to create the most normal and fulfilled life possible for the child. As a focus of attention for family and medical professionals from a young age, how difficult would it be to start believing that it’s all about you?
Look at me, I’m doing it right now! Talking all about my experience as a person with a disability. Don’t get me wrong, I think that’s important. But there’s something else, too.
The most beautiful trees would be nothing without their roots, and I believe that people are the same. For me, the support of my family has been a big part of grounding me and encouraging me to grow. This is true for many other individuals with disabilities, but not all. Unfortunately, having a disability does not mean you are automatically blessed with an incredible family. However, I was. I had parents who always had high expectations and believed in me. They instilled in me that I could do anything I set my mind to. My younger sister was born without any major disability. She was a best friend to me throughout the hardest times in my life. When I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue, her love and support helped me to be strong.
These are the unsung heroes. The ones who don’t experience the physical struggle of the disability or illness, but often go through the emotional struggles, sometimes the worst part. They don’t go out in public with a cane or a wheelchair but they love someone who does. So here’s to all those who support someone who is differently-abled. You give us wings.
To my Mom, Dad, and Sister: I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. Thanks for helping me grow. ❤