When to Let Go
Recently on the message boards the topic of "do you consider yourself
disabled?" came up. Do I consider myself disabled? My parents came from a
generation where people just toughed it out.
A few years ago, when I developed fibromyalgia, I tried to just "tough it
out.." I got my first disabled placard when my fibromyalgia got so bad I could barely
walk around a store. But I didn't think of myself as being disabled, just a
Following the strokes, I got a handicap license plate which felt like
admitting I was truly disabled. I can walk, but must look like I am drunk.
The people around me always seem ready to catch me if I fall. It takes all
of my strength to go a block. I long for the years, when I was young and
walked wherever and whenever I wanted.
For a long time I felt guilty about parking in those precious handicapped
spots. And then I had my strokes.
Do I consider myself disabled? The facts say that I am. Learning to walk
again was difficult but I fought my way through it. I walked until the agony
in my back and hips became so great I could barely walk one block.
X-rays revealed that I have osteo-arthritis in my lumbar spine and there is
no padding left between the last five disks. I went through more physical
therapy, pain medication, and shots in the nerves in my spine in an attempt
to short circuit the ever present pain. I started using a cane, and then a
walker but still, I didn't consider myself disabled.
With an ever growing list of medications, something happened one day that
further changed my life.
I worked so hard to get my certificate to drive after my strokes. Using the
driving simulator, I discovered that I have a significant amount of left
side neglect. To over come this, I learned to drive with a constant
awareness of that side.
An accident on a local freeway caught my attention. While it involved only
one car, the driver got a ticket for DUI. Was she drunk? No! But, she had
prescription medications in her system, meds that could affect her ability
to drive. My regiment of drugs includes a number of things that can affect
my ability to drive.
Over the next few months, I realized that my driving might be the cause of
someone else getting hurt. So I choose not to drive anymore. My husband is
wonderful and is my caretaker and chief driver.
Letting go of my wheels has been hard. But I know it was the right choice.
My husband has just retired and we'd planned to travel. But after the first
couple of adventures, I found that my ability to get around, even using the
walker, was severely restricted and exhausted me. Only after realizing that
the quality of my life was slipping away, I admitted that I am, indeed,
So I got a travel scooter. I named it my Free-Scooter and it has opened my
world back up! My Shi-Tzu dog, Bree, loves riding on my lap with the wind in
It is hard, I think, for any of us to admit we are disabled. I use my
scooter for close-to-home spots and to travel and I love it! In some
respects, I believe I am significantly mentally disabled in areas of my
brain. I am just happy most people will never see those hidden disabilities.
I really like what Ann Rogers, Stroke Network Human Resources Director,
shared on the Message Board. Talking about her husband's
disabilities, Ann writes, "His disabilities do not make him unlovable,
disrespected nor is he devalued as a human being. He is, however, less able
to function as he once could."
I will use my energy to fight for the things I can attain and let go of
those things that are beyond my grasp. This is my life and, yes, I, too, am
in many respects "less able to function."
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