When I first began adjusting to life as a disabled person, I read somewhere that ‘disability is a continuing process of acceptance’. The person wrote that you have to keep accepting disability and that it’s really not something that’s black and white. At the time, I heartily disagreed. I believed that you either accept that you’re disabled or you don’t. I felt that there was one day where I walked fine and then there was one day where I didn’t.
I think I get it now.
I’ve accepted the fact that I have CRPS. I’ve accepted the fact that at the very least I need a cane and at the most a wheelchair. But I find myself struggling to accept that there is still more that I need. On good days, I try to take my grudging acceptance and figure things out. On the bad days, I feel like a lazy, whiny child who just wants, wants, and wants some more. On the bad days, I worry that every new need is just a sign to others that I am looking for special attention. I worry that people think that I’m exaggerating or even worse, faking.
I haven’t accepted everything to do with disability. Being a disabled person is a lot of work. Trust me, I know, I used to be able-bodied. I haven’t accepted the fact that I need an adapted car even though I can feel my CRPS spreading into my right leg. I’ve known that there was a seventy percent chance of this happening. I know I might be lucky and it might be a lesser form of it. But it isn’t stopping the growing need to be able to drive without my feet.
I haven’t really accepted the fact that I need to buy a portable ramp if I ever want to go out on my deck. Sure, my apartment is wheelchair accessible, but there’s this one step to the deck outside that gives me a problem. And more so, I haven’t really accepted my need to use my wheelchair inside the house. I’ve been using it more often, but when I wake up, my first instinct is to grab my cane or crutches, not to shuffle down to the wheelchair at the foot of the bed.
I know I need an adapted car. I know I need a small ramp for my deck. And another bar in the bathroom. And I know I need to stop putting things on top shelves on my standing days. I know I need to keep my doorways cleared.
But do I accept it?
In time, I will wonder how I ever thought I could get by without. In time, the things I need will be replacements. In time, I’ll want shiny extras to go with what I need. In time, I will adapt and accept.
There are a lot of firsts with disability. I’ve had my first crutches, my first cane, my first wheelchair, my first day out on my own disabled!style, my first extraordinarily uncomfortable experience, and so on and on. After firsts come seconds and thirds, each time easier than the last (well perhaps not the extraordinarily uncomfortable experiences). My second cane was more suited to me than my first. My third pair of crutches were better than the first and second. Grudging acceptance over using a cane turned to excitement when I unwrapped my second black cane. Grudging acceptance over crutches turned to relief when I unwrapped lightweight polka dot crutches. And I just had pure bliss when I sat down in my first customized wheelchair.
It’s a continuing process of acceptance. I get it now. I really do.
And in time, I might understand it even better.