I hate that word.
I hate using that word, I hate being called that word, and for a long time I couldn’t figure out why.
But now I think I’ve figured it out. It’s because I don’t feel like I have a disability.
I don’t feel limited by my lack of movement, vision, or brain function. The only thing that will limit me is myself, but I won’t let that happen, and I won’t let these limitations stop me either.
My life didn’t stop when I had my strokes, and I knew that from day one. Yes, I was in denial at the beginning, mostly because I didn’t really know what had happened and the severity, but when the doctors told me I wouldn’t be going back to school until Fall of 2019 (a year and a half away), I was still outraged and heartbroken. But still, never once did I doubt that I was going back to school. And not just school, back to the University of Florida.
When people look at me, they probably do qualify be as disabled, but in my mind, I’m more disabled because of my brain strokes and chronic illness, the things you can’t see, rather than the spinal stroke (paralysis) and wheelchair, the things you can see.
Don’t get me wrong, I hate this wheelchair. Yes, it’s my legs and it gets me around and I’m grateful for that, but it’s still not the thing that will stop me from achieving my goals. If anything stops me from reaching my goals, it will be my learning difficulties or chronic illness, the things that aren’t as much in my control and aren’t as predictable. But still, I will do everything in my power not to let that happen.
I will overcome any and every barrier that I can. I won’t let what people think of me or qualify me as stop me from doing what I love.
I won’t let my strokes define me. I won’t let my wheelchair define me. I will not let those things control my life.
So in my mind, I am not disabled. I may be legally “disabled” or “handicapped,” I may look disabled, but I am not defined by my “disability.” That is not a word I will use to describe myself, at least not now. I may have limitations, but I am completely capable of achieving my goals and reaching my dreams.
I’ve never let anything stop me from dreaming big and setting big goals and high standards, and this is no different. Things will be harder, but I will achieve my goals nonetheless. I am strong and determined and I will reach my goals.