“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.” (Andre Lorde)
Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis over eleven years ago now, after my immune system attacked itself in error, following the birth of my wonderful baby boy. I have learned to adapt, adapt, and then adapt some more. Life did not go as planned and I have had to realign my whole way of thinking.
There have been many changes since my diagnosis, but the biggest and most visible change of all is my walking. A passer-by may see me and think of me as a ‘disabled’ person. But I am most certainly not. I am ‘differently’ abled, but able nonetheless. I am a very active, busy mum. I am a writer and exercise daily. I cook, I clean (sometimes), I dance (only in my room), I socialize, I travel, I read and so much more. I do all these things differently and the world would be a better place if we all began to think this way.
The one big thing where there has been absolutely no change is my ability to think and to learn. I am still the same me inside. I have the same dreams and aspirations. None of that has changed. The most hurtful thing in this entire journey was not getting Multiple Sclerosis. It was the fact that colleagues, some friends and strangers alike began to stop seeing me as their equal.
They began to retreat and separate themselves from my new world. They no longer wanted to stand side by side with the ‘disabled’ person. It was going to challenge them too much. Ask too much of them to alter their ways to include me. It may have hurt me somewhat, but it made me determined to prove that you can still achieve great things and live a full and enriched life, despite being ‘differently’ abled.
I decided to take myself away from the negativity and rejection I was experiencing. I decided to rebuild my life as a ‘differently’ abled person. To become an author and motivational writer. To raise my son in a world of positivity where it is not what happens to you that defines your life, but how you get up and deal with it. I work every day to achieve and my learning never stops.
I have opened up a whole new world since my diagnosis. I write, meditate, practise yoga and ‘earth’ on the rugged Scottish beaches to name but a few things I do now. These are all post MS additions to my life, never forgetting the joy of being a mum to the wonderful Elliot. I ask each and every person to look inside themselves and question if it really matters how someone looks or presents?
Do we really need to label them? And for whose benefit is that label? Can’t we just accept them as who they are and focus on what they can do? ‘Disability’ conjures up so much negativity for me and I’ve always thought of disabling something as stopping it working. Rest assured I still ‘work’ very well. Just very ‘differently.’ I have to find new ways to do old things, adapt and shift my perspective. But I am ‘able’ to live a full and active life this way. We can all start by shifting our perspective and seeing what someone can do first and not the ‘disability’. Celebrate difference and we could all look forward to a better and more positive future together.
Written by Patricia Gachagan.
Connect with Patricia on her site, patriciagachagan.com