Love Thy Self

In Columns, Life With Laura by Laura Stinson

This is going to sound odd, but I feel like I’m finally coming into my ” disabled”

self. You always hear people who say that they have found themselves or come into their identity. I’ve known for awhile who Laura is or, at least, who I believe her to be. First and foremost, I am just that: Laura. I am an artist, a writer, a romantic, a cynic, an idealist and a million other things that I can not even begin to discuss.

To say I’m coming into my disabled self means essentially the same thing. I am starting to recognize myself as a disabled woman with all that entails. This does not mean I’m letting my disability define who I am, which is something I refuse to do. I am not my OI and I am not my wheelchair. But I do have OI and I am in a wheelchair.

For much of my life, I have wanted to deny that fact. I have wanted to be anything but the girl in the wheelchair. I did not want to know or be associated with any disabled person. I thought that having friends with disabilities would keep me from being accepted as a person. I also never had an opportunity to know anyone with a disability, which proves only that we are afraid of that which we do not know.

I didn’t want to know about other people with disabilities, I wanted to pretend they didn’t exist. It wasn’t that I felt any animosity towards them; that is far from the truth. I just didn’t want to be “one of them”.

Yet, suddenly I am interested in knowing about the disability rights movement. (Check out my book review on No Pity.) I find comfort in having someone to share my concerns and stories with, someone who really understands what I have been going through. One of the women I work with has a daughter with OI. It is great being able to talk to her and compare my life with her daughter’s. It makes me feel less alone.

I still don’t associate with my disabled people. I don’t always consciously avoid it, but sometimes I do. None of us wants to be known as “the person in the wheelchair” because we know that is not who we really are. We want to be seen first as a person, judged by our personalities, with our disabilities being a minor aspect of our lives.

But, now I realize there is no shame in being disabled. I never really felt shame about being in a wheelchair until I realized how different it made me from everyone around me. I didn’t want to be different from my friends. I wanted to be just like them. Then, I realized I couldn’t be. I also realized that I didn’t want to be.

I want to be Laura. Laura is disabled. I don’t always like that fact, but I have finally accepted it. I like who I am. And, now, I want to learn more about who I am by finding out about other disabled people. I want to know what my life might have been like, had activists not fought for the rights I have. I want to find out what I can do for future generations. I want to know how to change the attitudes of the people around me right now and then I want to change them.

I’m glad to come into my disabled self. It’s a big part of who I am. It’s not who I am and never will me. But, I am Laura and I am disabled.