Disabilities – Mental vs Physical – Part 1

We’ve all heard the saying “the grass is always greener”.  Which side of the disability fence is greener.  Is it easier to battle the mind or the body?  I can’t speak for everyone but I can tell you my take on it after living with both.

The physical limitation?  I was born with my right arm missing just below the elbow.  I once asked my mom what she first thought when I was born.  She kinda chuckled and said “The first thing to pop into my head was oh no how is she going to crawl!”  Not to worry mom, I’m a mover and a shaker, I got this!  Not only did I learn to crawl but I type 55+ words a minute, I was a glass worker by trade for several years (until it became to much for my one hand to sustain), I knit,  crochet and and even silversmith!  I remember the look on my silversmithing instructors face as I walked into his classroom (I did not pre-warn him about my handicap).  He just kinda stared at me, said “This is silversmithing”.  I nodded and said “Yup, I know”.  He smiled and said “Alright, if you’re up for it so am I”.  Here is a bracelet I did in his class:

My First Sterling Braclet

Now could I do all the things in life that I wanted to do?  No not really.  I wanted to play the flute and never did figure out how to do that (Yet!), and they wouldn’t let me join archery in school (they didn’t want random kids getting shot in the butt I would imagine).  But all in all if I wanted to do something I found a way.  And the best way to ensure I would figure it out was to tell me I couldn’t!  Oooo that couldn’t word just sent a bolt of “bet me” lightening through my body and I would find a way.  Like the chemistry teacher that told me girls weren’t good at chemistry.  After hearing that, I made sure I was first in class all year and laughed when he told me he did it on purpose just to see who would rise to the challenge!

Some things in life are awkward and even though I can do them I would rather not.  Like tying my shoes, man I hate having to tie shoes.  My short arm makes it so I have to practically kiss my knees to reach the laces …. no just no.  Thank you to whoever designed the coiled elastic laces for kids!  Yup I proudly sport a pair of those on my tennis shoes (Don’t judge me)!  Oh and designer of sandals and flip flops … High Five!  #ShoesICan’tLiveWithout.

What about the reaction of the rest of the world to a physical disability.  Most often I see people shy away from asking about it but if I indicate in any way that I’m comfortable with it they will then engage me.  That’s a fair way to handle it, not everyone is as open as I am about it.  Say for instance you just returned from military service and your leg is gone…. you understandably may not be up for idle chit chat about it.  So a little caution saves that from becoming a bad conversation.  I was not always this open about mine.  After years of teasing from classmates I pretty much wanted to hide from it.  On a note of honesty I still prefer to hide it whenever a photo is taken….hey, I’m a work in progress.  Overall I think the world is sympathetic and encouraging to people with physical limitations.  Granted not everyone is and I know that.  I was working a job in downtown St. Paul when I was about 18 years old and I had a guy get in my line and just berate me for being slow, telling me they shouldn’t have hired me and so on and so on.  First I started crying but that didn’t last long.  I straightened myself up and told that guy I felt sorry for him, that his life must be pretty terrible for him to need to treat someone that way.  Ahhh, that felt much better than crying!  Those types of things did not happen much to me though.  All in all having one arm was awkward, sometimes embarrassing and emotional turbulent.  It made doing somethings in life either difficult or impossible.  On the upside it also strengthened my character and helped me become a fighter.

If you have a disability and your experience has been different please share.

Next up – part 2.  I’ll share more of my side of life with Bi-Polar and which one was easier for me to deal with, physical or mental.

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