I often talk about being proud to be different. I say that my difference is the very thing that makes me unique and the person who I am, and how important it is for all of us to celebrate our differences, even when those differences are disabilities. I write blog articles about it. I present workshops to teens about it. I even just finished writing a book about it, which is pending publishing. It’s my personal philosophy, and it’s what’s helped me make it so far and accomplish so much.
But I’ll be honest. Sometimes, I wish I could just be normal. I wish I didn’t have to depend on medication just to make it through each day, and go through the hassle of having my doctor write a prescription every month and have it filled at the pharmacy. I wish that I could focus well enough to safely operate a motor vehicle without being distracted by everything else on the road, and that I didn’t have to rely on family, friends, or public transportation to get from one place to another. I wish that I could go to a party or a bar, socialize with my friends, and actually have a good time without becoming overwhelmed with all of the sensory overload that everyone else somehow manages to filter out. I wish I could even order a drink or two without worrying about the effect it might have on my medication.
I look at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, the laundry hamper overflowing with dirty clothes, the constant disarray of my desk and kitchen table covered with “To Do” lists, and feel so overwhelmed with all the little things I haven’t done yet, and that I could easily get done if I could just manage to stop wasting time for just a few minutes. I look at the chaotic mess of my house, which is a perfect metaphor for my chaotic life, throw my hands up in the air, and wonder, “Why can’t I just be NORMAL?“
Oh, I know. I should be strong and practice what I preach to others about being proud of my differences and celebrating myself. I need to remember the pep talks that others gave to me when I was younger about how my difference can be a gift; about how the very thing that makes me disorganized, inattentive, and messy also makes me creative, intuitive, clever, and how it enables me to make connections that other people miss; and how I should use my situation as an opportunity to educate others and that I have something special to share with the world. However, being labeled “special” and “different” isn’t always a good thing, and at times I find it to be stigmatizing.
There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll always be the way I am, and my disability will never go away. So, I figure, I have one of two choices. On one hand, I can lock myself up in my room and lament my lot in life while listening to depressing music, and go around every day with a frown on my face, leading to premature wrinkles that will make me look ugly and old in about five or ten years; ultimately dragging everyone around me down to the depths of misery as well.
Or, I can choose to accept my difference as a normal and natural part of life, and know that while I may struggle, I am more than just my disability and I refuse to let my disability define me. I can remind myself that while I’m not “normal” in the traditional sense, who I am is what is normal for me; a philosophy shared by the creators of “I am norm.” Their website, www.iamnorm.org, is a resource created by and for young people with disabilities, and spreads the message that everyone is normal. I have only one life, and I can choose to make the most of it using what I have and all the things I can do, rather than lamenting about the things I can’t. I can use my many gifts to be an inspiration to other people, and hope and pray that my words and my life can make a positive change to other people who are different or who struggle with obstacles.- Authored by Becky Rizoli