Disability and Strength
Hello, my name is Bethany Tomerlin Prince. First things first, I use American English, so my apologies if this post has significantly fewer u’s than you are expecting.
I was born with mild Cerebral Palsy and Motor Sensory Integration Disorder. My childhood was a series of doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. I wore leg braces every day till I was thirteen.
Though in many ways, I was fortunate because I could overcome my physical limitations and live an independent life with persistence, advocacy, and hard work. I am aware that it doesn’t work out that way for many.
Disability poses particular challenges and hardships for the individual and their caregivers, but this post focuses on the good things I gained from my disability. Now, this is just my best guess. I cannot peer into alternate universes to compare and contrast the versions of Bethany with and without a disability. However, here is what I think my disability gave me despite the hardships and challenges:
The doctors always said that I knew my limitations well before anyone else. I used my imagination to escape the physical confines of my body. Instead of having an imaginary friend, I had entire imaginary galaxies. Even today, my imagination is my constant companion.
Whatever pain and hardship I have experienced, I have constantly tried to use it as fuel and motivation to make things better for the people coming after me.
My therapist once asked if I was ever angry about the circumstances of my birth. I told her it never even occurred to me to resent being born with a disability. I have always just been grateful for the progress I have made instead of wishing my things were different.
Self Awareness and Self Advocacy
It is an unfortunate reality that when you live with a disability, help is out there, but you must be aware of what you need and ask for it. But the skills I learned in determining what I required and being assertive enough to request it have served me well in my professional role as an engineer. I credit this insistent self-advocacy with helping me to avoid the gender pay gap.
Close Relationship with My Parents
I never went through a teenage rebellion stage. I consider myself and my parents a team because of the advocacy they did to ensure that I got the accommodations I needed.
When my aunt was recovering from a heart attack, the physical therapists chastised her for not pushing through the discomfort and pain to make progress. That has never been a problem for me.
I was super self-motivated to do my physical therapy because I wanted to get better, to be mainstreamed, and for a day to come when I could leave my leg braces in the closet. That attitude of persistence through temporary obstacles got me into MIT. It also helped me succeed once I was at MIT.
Now, as an adult, I learned to modulate this approach, so that I didn’t burn out, but the ability to turn this mindset when needed has been of tremendous benefit in both my personal and professional life.
What My Disability Gave To Me – Summary
If you are an individual with a disability, please post in the comments if there are any good things you think your disability gave to you.
Or, if you are a caregiver to someone with a disability, ask them what parts of themselves they are most proud of and if they think their circumstances helped shape that part of their personality.
If you liked my writing and want to read more of it, here is the link to my blog where I talk about books, disability representation in fiction, and my perhaps delusional dream to self-publish novels featuring disabled protagonists that get to go on adventures just like the abled bodied main characters.