TO: Men all over the planet
RE: Myth busters
DATE: October 22, 2012
We all want sympathy
I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder. I’ve had more than 25 surgeries, mostly to correct joint and muscle contractures, and I’ve seen the white walls and slept in more beds of a hospital far more times than I have the Hilton. But I don’t sit around bemoaning my fate. And I certainly don’t seek out sympathy every chance I get. I always tell people who ask (I don’t bring my disability up in everyday conversation unless someone asks, either) that because I was born with a physical disability, I honestly don’t know any different. It’s sort of the idea that you can’t really miss what you’ve never had. To me, this life — my life — is normal.
We don’t work
I graduated college with a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University in 2005. While in college, I worked on my campus newspaper as a copy editor and reporter, where I discovered my true passion for writing and journalism. For the last four years, I worked as an adviser for a community college newspaper, and this fall, I’m beyond excited to be taking So About What I Said full-time.
Physically disabled means mentally disabled
I used to get this one a lot when I was a child, and back then, I just didn’t understand it. In fact, I still don’t. Whenever we’d be out in public, people would ask my parents questions about me when I was right there as if I couldn’t speak for myself. It was frustrating, but I suppose people saw my wheelchair and probably assumed my mind was impaired too. They soon learned otherwise when I opened my mouth!
We’re not independent
When I was in first grade, I got my first electric wheelchair. As the story goes, I just kept saying “Thank you” to my parents because I could finally enjoy the childhood independence that I saw my peers experiencing. And now as an adult, besides needing assistance with bathing and getting dressed, I’m actually a pretty low-maintenance woman. Although I can’t drive, I can take the bus to and from work, to the grocery store and doctors appointments by myself. It’s a sense of freedom I’ve never taken for granted.
We don’t want/need to have romantic relationships
I love exploring this topic to try to dispel the stereotype that women with disabilities are vastly different from the majority of women. When it comes to love and romance, I have the same desires, hopes and dreams that most people do. After my father died in 2003, I remember looking back on my parents’ marriage and thinking, “That is the kind of love I want someday. The deep and unconditional kind.” My disability hasn’t changed that. It hasn’t made me any less of a woman, and I think people (especially guys) tend to forget that sometimes.
[Bottom photo via Le Love]