That is what it feels like to be disabled—disabled of body, mind, or spirit. Constantly on the outside, behind this invisible barrier—a window if you wish—looking in, wishing we could join the rest of the abled, but held back by our disability.
This was often the case for me growing up. Born profoundly deaf, I was not able to speak or hear like the others. Even with my parents’ tireless efforts to integrate me into the hearing world by making speech therapy and hearing aids accessible to me, the feeling of being different or disabled clung to me like a bad smell. I was teased mercilessly, excluded from several teams, cliques and outings. The inner turmoil created from this exclusivity led me to believe that my disability was the issue. Several years later, after being fitted with a cochlear implant that further expanded my world, and let me cross over this invisible barrier and join the rest of the abled. Just so you know, to “fit in” is highly overrated, as I’ve come to discover. However, I am able to say this because I am no longer trapped by the label of disability that was slapped onto me upon my birth. Years later, I am more fit and healthy than ever, university-educated, have my own business, with several credentials to back me up. Not so bad for a disabled person, right?
Let me tell you a secret—I was never disabled. I was far more able than I thought. Thanks to the backwards thinking of scholarly and so-called civilized society we are immersed in, our psyches soaked in all those labels and assumptions and scripts that were written for us way before we took out first breath out of the womb, I had believed all those voices that told me that I was disabled. Those self-fulfilling prophetic voices manifested into me actually believing that I was something less, that I had a vital sense or asset taken away from me, and therefore because I am missing this, I am not like the others and shouldn’t expect to be treated like the others. For a long time, I believed that yes, I am disabled, deal with it, move on, etc.
Thanks to my massive support system, meditation, and wise mentoring from the most brilliant minds I know, I broke out of my old self-limiting belief system that I was disabled. Once I broke through that barrier, my spirit flourished, no longer held back by the chains of faulty programming put into me by well-meaning individuals and institutions. Bolstered by the strength of my loved ones and faith, I eventually started to recognize that disability is a state of mind. Disability was a perception instilled into me. Before I knew what the word disability mean, I never saw myself as disabled. Being deaf meant my other senses heightened—is that supposed to be a disability? If someone has chronic pain syndrome, but has found a way to manage it and still live life, is that a disability? Or Stephen Hawkings, with the help of technology, who is able propose breakthrough theories about quantum physics? Or athletes who with prosthetic legs that can run faster than the average human? Let’s take the prosthetic-legged athlete and the average human and see who can outrun a lion. Who do you think is going to be eaten alive?
Life happens! It is what it is! Let’s stop calling what we deem different “disabled’. We all have a purpose, but so many of us are held back from our true path by misconceptions instilled into us. Because I have “made” it, I can’t help but look back and recognize that not everybody had the same opportunities that I did that helped me break free from my disability shell. And it feels so unfair. My heart bleeds for those still trapped with the disabled label. Turn that disability into an ability. If you don’t think you can, it is because you haven’t recognized what your “disability” can do for you. I am here to help you recognize yourself for who you are, without all the labels and froufrou that society slapped onto people like us. And if you don’t like it, well then I can just turn off my cochlear implant and hearing aid and not listen to your naysayings. I am here to show the “disabled” how capable they really are, and to change their disability into an asset, not to prove anything to the so-called abled people who have so fondly slapped us with that darn label, which haunts us to no end.
A so-called disabled person who is now on the inside looking out, wishing she could bring the outsiders in. And that, is exactly my plan.
Jenny Lindsay Valdis Campbell
Jenny is a Certified Pilates & Yoga Instructor as well as a Certified Reiki & Body Talk practitioner, helping client with disabilities as well as their caregivers is a multitude of mind-body-love-hugs ways! She is a skilled Adaptive Fitness Specialist. Contact her at the Pilates Manitoba studio 204.487.2287 or book online.