Throughout my life, I’ve had people come up to me and ask me about why I use a wheelchair. When I explain that I have cerebral palsy, the response is often, “I’m sorry, that sucks. I could never live like that.” I am always confused by the responses for many reasons.
1. What exactly are you saying sorry for? You did not cause me to have this disability. I don’t blame anyone.
2. Why is having a disability considered so tragic? It’s like those around you can’t imagine how people with disabilities can be happy
3. Just because you can’t imagine living life as a disabled person, does not mean it’s appropriate to say that. I'm alive and that means that my life has meaning
4. You can’t really predict what will happen to you in this life, and you don’t know what you can or can not handle until you are put into that position.
5. Tomorrow, you could be living as a disabled person. Think about how you’d like people to respond to you!
6. I was not given a choice – I was forced into the disability community. If I want to live a meaningful life, I must get out of bed every day.
I think we live in a time where doing things on your own is praised. Independence is important for the general society, as well as disabled individuals. However, when you live your life as a disabled person, you need to rely on people. When people say they can’t imagine living my life with cerebral palsy, I feel as though they mean I can’t imagine having to rely on others for some, or all basic needs.
People with disabilities are great examples of why a person's soul is more important than their physical bodies. From another perspective, people often say, “Travel while you’re young and able." Well, my life is the opposite. I never was able. Most people start out being able and regress as they age.
In a way, I am grateful that I will not have to mourn the loss of what I once was able to do. Of course, to an extent, I will, but as I age, it will be like I’m starting over again.
It doesn’t matter if you’re able or disabled – eventually, our bodies will fail, but your soul will always shine through.
Image credit: Kayla Ruesseler