Normal/Normalcy is usually associated with society’s typical standards. Disability is generally known as an illness or injury that impairs or limits a person’s physical or mental abilities.
The word disability was introduced to me at an early age. My Grandmother had lost a leg from diabetes. As a teen, I learned that a disability was not only physical, but it also took place on the inside when a family member was diagnosed with a mental health disorder. I also realized that it does not only affect the person with the disability, but others around them as well. As a result, I wanted to go for Psychology at a University. I wanted to know how people tick and then help those with disabilities and their families to better understand and deal with issues.
While attending the University I started working with individuals with developmental disabilities and at a school for children with physical and mental disabilities. I eventually received my Masters in Counseling Psychology and started counseling individuals and facilitating groups. With my work and educational experience, I thought I was equipped and knowledgeable on how to help others deal with disabilities. Not quite!
Jan 7, 2011
The day that changed my life. Like an action movie that flashes back in time up until the plot. First, you get a glimpse of the characters going about their “normal” lives. Then the plot occurs, and their whole world turns upside down. This is how I feel when I think back to that day. I yearn at times to experience those moments just before the plot of my story. To feel normalcy. The time when I looked, felt and thought normal. This is only part of the aftermath, I soon came to find out.
Now I was a person with a disability. I was now on the receiving end in need of learning how to deal with, the new me. Those with years of experience and education behind them, as well as family members and friends were supportive, but could not relate to me. I felt so lost and alone. I found an online support chat group with individuals just like myself. It was almost a wonderful feeling and no longer felt as an outcast.
The wounds have healed and I look practically like the old me. However, there are still the residual effects. These are what others cannot see, such as the constant pain, limitations, personal view of the disfigurement, and the mental/emotional effects. While dealing with the residual effects, taking care of children, working, attending medical appointments, and living life almost seems impossible. However, it can be done and needs to be done. Escaping, avoidance, procrastination, and a host of other self-describing words have developed subsequently to the disability. I am not sure if these are the result of my way of coping with the disability itself or the way of coping with the reality after the disability.
Since I appear normal or look like I dealt with all the necessities, I am perceived as having no more issues. There are positives to appearing this way. No longer do I have to indulge others constantly with answers to their curious questions. Additionally, I am able to move on to other stages of healing. On the negative end for example, others see what they want to see. My employer expected the same performance without issues. This held true in my relationship as well, although much more supportive.
The best thing I did was to contact the online support group. It was important for me know that I was not alone and to get educated on what was happening to me and what to expect. Healing is a process that includes grieving. There have been different levels or stages in which this has taken place. The ripple effects of the event have caused various losses. Despite these losses, I am a Survivor. I view the world differently and embrace life. I provide support and advocacy to others as a peer. Some moments are a struggle, nevertheless I feel more empowered than ever.