When the editorial staff here at Able Different asked me to contribute as a regular columnist for this new and exciting publication, there was only one answer. I immediately chimed in with a resounding YES!
While so many people have lived with a disability since birth, I am one of several million people who now define life in the new context of “before” and “after.”
As a typical child, I had dreams and aspirations. My dad actually worked on the Apollo Moon Project back in the 1960’s prompting an early dream to become an astronaut. Daily he would regale us with stories about working on a rocket going to the moon. I listened with child-like wonder. No fairy tale telling here. He was part of the team that made space travel a reality.
That dream was replaced by another, and another and yet another – as I walked through a typical childhood. Never, however, did I plan on becoming a disabled adult. Let’s be realistic. No one says, “When I grow up, I want to experience a traumatic brain injury and join the ranks of those who live daily with an invisible disability.”
But such was the hand that fate dealt me. In November of 2010, while out enjoying a late-fall bike ride in southern New Hampshire, I was struck by a driver barely old enough to shave. My broken bones have long since mended, my bruises have faded away and quietly disappeared, but my brain injury will be with me for the rest of my life.
Invisible disabilities go well beyond traumatic brain injury. Just ask someone with a life affected by Autism, or Fibromyalgia, or Lupus, or Schizophrenia. The list of invisible disabilities is as varied as those who daily live lives with challenges that most others never see.
One of the major challenges faced by those of us with invisible disabilities is just that – we so often look normal. Many of us work, some of us are dads and moms, and we are sons and daughters, husbands and wives. We walk daily through life just under the radar screen of those living without disabilities.
Over the last three-and-a-half years since I joined the ranks of the invisibly disabled, I have been blessed beyond measure to advocate for others. Whether in my writing or in various speaking engagements, I have been able to use my own life as a real-world example of how to live life with a disability.
I made the choice to not remain silent. In living a life of service to others, my own life has been enriched in ways that have only come to pass because of my disability. For years, my wife Sarah has had a personal mantra. “There will come a time when the Curse becomes a Blessing,” she has shared on innumerable occasions. And so it has come to pass.
I want to offer what amounts to a bit of a challenge to you. If you are among the invisibly disabled population, have you ever given thought to shedding some of your invisibility? There are small steps we can all take to let the world know about us. Perhaps you can share a bit of your own story with someone unfamiliar with your life experiences. While this level of sharing may not be for everyone, it might just be for you.
Your actions need not be large, grandiose or over the top. A quiet and honest sharing might have more of an impact that you expect. Not only can your sharing be good for you, it might just end up helping someone else who is struggling. If enough of us take small, measured steps to share a bit of ourselves with other members of our shared human family, miracles can and will come to pass.
In future columns, you can expect to read first-hand about my daily challenges and triumphs as a disabled adult. And if you are lucky, I might just throw in a splash of quirky humor as well. As I learned long before my accident – life is simply too short to not laugh heartily.