I'll Decide For Myself, Thanks

Sometimes when we are fed messages over and over again we start to believe them. Our eardrums pick-up on the same sound bytes and begin mindlessly thumping to the beat of the outside noise. Words fall out of our lips that form around them, before our tongues can swallow the letters back. Eyes begin to glaze over to the signs that are most familiar to us, the ones that don't make us squint too much from the glare or the darkness. Put all of those actions together and the ensemble can be dangerous. Dangerous because it's easy to settle, to just give in to those most basic human senses and believe.

For quite sometime this is what I did. I became used to the messaging that shaped my life by my family, and the society that I live in. "You can't.." "You're disabled.." "You're handicapped.." "You're a dependent.." "You're on government aid.." "You're smart but.." "People will always help you.." "It's okay no one expects.." "No one is going to because you're.." "You're qualified for services.." "You're not qualified for services.." "Just work the system.."
These were just some of the things I heard, I spoke (more like I just mimicked), I saw the process and the experience. Of course not all of these things are negative! I would like to think that I've had a fairly positive experience of my role in my community, and in society at large - at least it's something that I can say I am proud of having today!

But I do think that when we have a disability others are quick to flock around us, like a feeding frenzy of pigeons at a park, to pick and squawk their two cents in. Everyone has a different idea of what we need, of what we'll be capable of, of where we should go in life, of the best course of action, of who will provide the best care - it's no wonder why some young people (or older?) may feel consumed by their disability! It's frustrating and can easily spiral into a disheartening feeling, that you have a thousand papers (of all the same information to fill out), and you need to call hundreds of (government automated voice) representatives just to say: yes I am disabled, yes this is what I need and I know damn well you can provide this. Is it just me or does that sound incredibly needy?

This is why I have begun, recently, to flip the equation. When I call I introduce myself as "Sandy..and I work at...and I need help with this..and could you tell me my options.." As opposed to "Hi I use a wheelchair and.." It might be a small change in the conversation, just a small flipping of the words - but I have noticed a readily positive change in reaction just from the way I present myself. The truth is just like us, other people have the same senses we do - they too are getting fed certain messages over and over again. We can't change how their senses process those messages, but
we can change what they are being fed.
Sure, maybe after reading this post you will try this out for yourself (and if you do - let me know how it goes!) but I don't want to just sit here and tell you this is what has worked for me, and therefore you should do it. I am not your mother, your teacher, or pfff anyone in any kind of authority. This is not a game of Simon Says for you!  

I'm just another young person experimenting with the way I interact with the outside world, trying to reach for those scattered breadcrumbs around me - and deciding for myself who to toss them to. Consider this an invitation to join me.   

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