Whenever you read about someone with a disability, the feature is either asking for a donation to a disability-related cause or it’s an inspirational, heartwarming story. Both are great, don’t get me wrong, and have all the best intentions to try to make the world a better place. There is a great deal of inspiration when it comes to seeing someone with a disability go after a dream or beat all odds to have a great life. There’s a lot of “go get ’em!” and “don’t let your disability keep you from seeing your abilities!” and that’s great encouragement. It can also be vomit inducing. It’s these times that I just can’t even.
I don’t have a smile on auto-pilot. I’m not bitter at the world, but I don’t keep on smiling for the sake of advocating for disabilities with my every roll. I get scared, self-conscious and a little socially awkward. I learned in the beginning of my paraplegia that being around someone in chair makes people nervous. Of course it does, seeing someone whose body doesn’t match the norm has made people nervous since the dawn of civilization. When people see me, they’re confused because I don’t look like I should be in a chair and they’re not sure whether to feel sorry for me, be impressed, offer help, ask questions or run away. I get it. I’m sure I felt the same way before my accident.
I used to think that every time I interacted with the world, I was representing disabilities everywhere and I have to smile to the world to show them that life with a disability is great 100% of the time and how dare you think otherwise. Please. I’m over it. A lot of the time, this disability sucks. I don’t know whether life is harder with a disability than without; people tend to make their own lives harder than they need to be, whether they’re wealthy or disabled or anyone.
It’s impossible to keep up the pretense that everything is great, so every once in a while I don’t try to get back up when life has got me down. When difficult things arise, sometimes I make them worse and wallow. I let myself be real and have a day where I don’t talk myself out of thinking that being in a wheelchair sucks. “Bad wheelchair days” are something I let myself do; there’s a time limit, it can only last one day, but I let myself be free to think that life just hurts all around sometimes. The last time I had one, my text conversation with Dusty when I got home from work really proved that this guy is an experienced married man.
“Just a warning for when you get home, it’s a bad wheelchair day. Our kitchen cabinets are way too high, I can’t reach anything, my legs keep having spasms and I can’t stretch out my back to get it to stop hurting. It’s a danger zone here.”
“Got it. What flavor of ice cream do you want.”
I’m guilty of being a disability cheerleader 98% of the time. But when life gets me down that other 2% of the time, I’ll be down here on the floor refusing to get back up and go get ’em because I just can’t even. And that’s just fine.