Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Disability In - Shyness Out

Before becoming disabled, I used to be shy. Talking to strangers? Not so much. Yelling in public? Uh-uh. A lot of my shyness went out the window when I became disabled. Maybe, it was all the doctor visits - how can shyness survive my going around clad in a hospital gown and undies? Maybe, it was all the stares as I moved slowly, and painfully, along with my mobility aid - how can shyness survive when almost every time I enter somewhere I'm hit with a spotlight that causes folks to stare, or turn away? Maybe, it was just me adapting to my new situation, and discovering strength I did not know I had within me.

I want to take care of myself. I want to be independent. I want to do everything for myself. The reality is that there are now some things that I cannot do for myself. Like when I go to the grocery store, and the item I need is on a high shelf, out of my reach. Pre-disability, I would shimmy up the shelves in a way that would make any squirrel proud, and grab what I needed.
Now, when I'm alone on an aisle in a store, I will bellow out, "Hello!" in order to get someone who can get that out of reach item. My leg doesn't work right, but my voice is just fine, thank you.

Or, when my paratransit ride parks on the far side of a parking lot, unaware that I'm ready to go - my walking across a parking lot is a daunting, time consuming, and very painful task. When my paratransit ride is parked on the far side of the parking lot, I will ask an able-bodied stranger to walk across the parking lot and let the paratransit driver know that I'm ready to go.

I don't automatically ask for help. I want to be independent, and I debate with myself everytime such a situation comes up. Do I really need help? But, if the fact is that I am facing a situation that I cannot physically cope with, or I will probably come to harm by trying to do it myself, then I will shove aside my shyness and do what is needed. Now, I can approach a stranger. Now, I can shout.

I am not diminished by being disabled. I have found new strength.


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