This is a short essay on how and why I came out and came to terms with disability in my own life.
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Coming to Terms with Disability
When I first see that phrase, I get an image in my head of a body wrestling with this unknown blob and the blob is “disability”. It’s like, we have this notion in our culture that “disability” is this big baddie, this sick, weak, unsexy unknown – and that we need to ‘overcome’ it, wrestle it down to the ground, stand with our foot on its chest and proudly say something Scott Hamilton-ish like, “there is no disability in life but a bad attitude.” (Read: “What is Inspiration Porn?“)
Or… we get to some point where we see the value in what people with disabilities do, which is to see, hear, walk, think, respond, or feel in ways that are less mainstream than most. When that happens, I think there is usually this war with the word, “disability” itself and all kinds of stuff like “don’t dis my ability”, “differently abled” or even “special needs” come forth.
Coming to terms with disability for me was about the wrestling match with the blob, yeah, it was.
This is what happened:
I wrestled with the blob, I got that sucker under me, I stood up just like I was supposed to, I put my foot on its chest and when I looked down…. I realized I needed it.
I needed and desperately wanted that connection with others like me, who see, hear, walk, think, respond, or feel in ways that are less mainstream than most. I didn’t want to feel alone, I didn’t want to push what was – dare I say? – special about me into the box of mainstream and not honor or develop those skills. I didn’t want to pretend my experience in this life is to be chalked up to “overcoming” because it’s not, it’s about experiencing, it’s about the choices that I make within the framework of possibility.
So, I reached down and helped the blob up and embraced it.
And when I embraced it, it turned into a sparkly unicorn that farted rainbows.
Which is to say – when I leaned in and welcomed it, it was what I needed and wanted. It was community and answers and pride and empowerment. It was joy in our beauty, all our beauty, it was amazement at our diverse talent. It was frustration with an obtuse, archaic employment system, with old ways of doing things that make no sense, with prejudice and discrimination, but it was also with a fierce drive to change those pieces… and those pieces can be changed.
Those of us with disabilities? We are the canaries in the mine, we are the people with the knowledge, skills and abilities that have the potential to transform by pure dint of the fact that we are forced to think outside the box on a daily basis.
Those of us with disabilities? We are the counselors, empaths, healers, engineers, designers, creatives and lovers of the future – we have it all and we’ve been pushed into ill-fitting molds for so long that the gifts that we come with haven’t remotely been tapped. We are the mavericks who assist the non-disabled to think, do, be more creatively; we inspire and promote change, we push our societies to new levels of living, design, and justice.
Coming to terms with disability:
This was a wrestling match, then an embrace of the blob, a transformation, a recognition and an affirmation of my own self and my community. It was a lens placed over my viewfinder of life, one that honors my daughter as well as my self. It is a place of pride and power.
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And… because this one is too cute:
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.