I’m one of those really annoying people that you meet/see that constantly smiles about absolutely nothing and always says hello to a complete stranger as I’m wheeling past. I think I’m a happy go lucky person that tries to see the positive and not the negative in every situation, I try not to sweat the small stuff – picking each battle as I go along very wisely.
My glass is always half full, not half empty!
So why do some people think that just because I’m a disabled person I should automatically be depressed, I’m praised because I “keep smiling despite all that I have” – yes I’ve experienced a life without muscular dystrophy but I’ve spent more of my life living with muscular dystrophy, Learning along the way to accepted and embraced it as part of who I am.
Every so often I encounter strangers who say “look at you smiling away with all that you have”. I usually respond by saying thanks life’s not that bad while laughing, because I truly don’t understand why someone would automatically think my life is full of doom and gloom. Yes, of course I have bad days who doesn’t just because I’m disabled doesn’t mean I’m not like every other person out there,
But how do I explain my internal battle, how do I reveal a ‘weakness’ when people already see a very visible one. because if I let my inner ‘weakness’ out for everyone to see then it will become part of my reality, a bit like someone who invades your space and doesn’t get the hint to leave. Even more so how can I make people understand that my disability isn’t what triggers my mental health?
Muscular dystrophy is a progressive muscle-wasting condition of which I have a rare form of [Always knew I was rare one!!] it wasn’t something I was born with but it was already in my genes and didn’t become noticeable until my late teens. I know what both worlds look like standing and sitting. Yes it was hard at the beginning to really accepted and embraced my new life as a disabled woman but It is part of who I am, so how can I dislike or reject it? It would be like rejecting and hating myself over something I had/have no control over. I would definitely rather love myself than hate myself.
When you say this to people, I can see the disbelief behind their eyes and that look of pity slowly comes across their face, all while thinking ‘we know you aren’t happy because of your disability, and just trying to hide it’. Maybe my face is telling a different story to what I’m thinking who knows? Having a disability does not have to affect your quality of life – my quality of life is only affected by the lack of accessibility, inclusion and knowledge within the world. (Please remember this may not be the case for all as one size doesn’t fit all).
It baffles me people can’t see there are so many other factors that will affect your mental thoughts, like childhood trauma, relationships. It can sometimes feel like your constantly ‘fighting’ a new daily battle; for instance, whether it’s for acceptance, a job, new equipment or your age because people believe you should have a short shelf life. and you know it’s your disability that is being rejected. Missing appointments or events because you can’t find a taxis or they won’t stop because of your wheelchair.
My question why are some so quick to blame the disabled Community, is this not an outdated attitude? More importantly, why would people really want me to be miserable because I have a disability? In reality, it is them that have the problem with my disability and not me!
Any advice to be given would be to look at the person, not their disability. Look at our inner characters, not our appearance, talk to us. Get to know the person inside not the person you automatically see. Do all of that before making sweeping assumptions based societies stereotypical beliefs that have been ‘taught’ throughout the years about being disabled.
As the saying goes don’t judge a book by it’s cover!
Over the years I have worked hard – learnt that talking and writing about my mental health has not just been beneficial to myself but also to others in similar situation.
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A letter to my 10year old self
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