Fear and Disability: Why I Will Not Let My Disability Disable Me
Fear is disabling, especially when you are disabled. Prior to my back surgeries and accompanying health problems, I was a very fearless woman. I spoke boldly, challenged myself, worked hard, and became a performer in an improvisational comedy group. Since my surgeries, however, I have become fearful, timid, and unsure of my capabilities. This is NOT who I am, this is who I have become as a result of my injuries. More importantly, this is not who I will ALLOW myself to be.
Although I am trying to quell my fears, I understand why I have become more fearful. When you are disabled, the littlest things can seem like a mountainous feat. Because of my mobility issues and my occasional unsteadiness (coupled with a tendency toward being a ginormous klutz) this time of year can be especially difficult. Black ice, which used to just be a nuisance, has become my worst enemy. Snow, which used to be pretty and fun, is now cause for concern when I need to get to the car, get to a store or walk the dog. Everyday tasks, like driving to physical therapy, take planning. I need to make sure I take enough medication to control my pain without making me tired (or an unsafe driver).
I do not have a 9-5 job. I am a writer. I write free-lance pieces, children’s books, fiction novels, I maintain my blog, “Oh What a Pain in the…,” and now thanks to this partnership with American Health Journals, I guest post here and can share with you my tales of woe and hope. But, even writing can be scary for me. When I have a contracted job, or even a deadline for a guest piece, my first reaction is that of fear. I’m afraid I can’t do this. I’m afraid I can’t sit through the pain long enough to write. I’m afraid I can’t write well because I am too foggy from fibro-fog, pills, or chronic insomnia. I’m afraid, but I keep going because I can’t let my disability disable ME.
So, how do we fight fear when also coping with physical and/or emotional disability? For me, I am fighting it by confronting it and at the same time giving in to the fear by challenging myself to step outside of my very small, confining comfort zone and just…trying.
This weekend I was at the end of what seemed like an endless depression. Disability, fear, sadness, and hopelessness had gotten the best of me for quite some time. My husband, Jhon, asked me a question that changed everything, “When was the last time you were happy?” My response was quick to come to me as I blurted out “The last time I was really, truly happy was when I was in acting class and doing improv.” My husband’s solution was as quick as my response, “Go back to class.” I am leaving “guilt and illness” as a whole other guest post, but needless to say after some debate, and about fifty sentences starting with “I’m afraid I can’t…” I emailed the director of the school I used to attend and talked to him about coming back.
Anyone who has ever stepped foot on stage, or even in a class knows that acting is exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It is the ultimate exercise in vulnerability, self-awareness, and the ability to GET OVER YOURSELF. You would think I would choose something a little easier to get over my fears and ease back into being me, but I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more. That does not mean I am not still terrified. The last time I took classes and was on a stage (3 years ago) I was significantly more able-bodied. Acting alone brings with it its own set of fears, but acting with a disability brings up a whole host of uncertainties I never had to consider before. Can I handle the drive? Can I handle sitting/standing/kneeling/standing on my head if I have to get through a class? Will I be chided for spending my time on something so frivolous? Can I bring out the intense emotion I feel or have the medications numbed my ability to express myself? Can I handle the physical aspect of class? Upon speaking with the director I was instantly excited and frightened at the same time.
No one can know if I can handle this, not even me. I won’t know until I try, but I feel I owe it to myself to try, to try and stop being so fearful, to try and be happy, to try and be the fearless person I used to be. It is very scary to be disabled, but I think what scares me more, is giving up a piece of who I am to that fear. So, I will try. The bottom line is that if I don’t start confronting my fears about living with disability, it is going to be the fear that disables me.
“Oh What a Pain in the…”: a humorous, no holds barred look at life with physical and emotional pain!