By Ross (he/they), 20
Listen to it here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0n21OTO6NgO4XdE6yJYu1m?si=d34a84f8ae604c23
When answering ‘what have I lost or gained because of disability?’ is difficult because I don’t have one. I have not had to deal with the struggles of diagnosis, hospital stays, and always putting my health before everything else – it hasn’t been central to my day-to-day life. I’ve never had to face the same adversity as my friends because of an inaccessible society. But when your two closest friends (who are basically family) have disabilities, you experience their sacrifices and achievements second-hand you experience your own losses and gains
What may first come to mind when it comes to losses is the freedom to do things with your friends where disability can become an obstacle – this may include nights out which helps bond friendships, creates silly, funny moments that you remember, or don’t (lol) - or day plans that are inaccessible or too exhausting. Some may even say what I’ve lost is a ‘positive’ or ‘cool’ appearance to the outside world as I walk at a steady pace alongside my friend using a wheelchair or crutch. Not that this has ever been an issue to me. What I have lost are friendships and relationships where health is not a factor in sustaining it.
Reflecting back on the question though, I really haven’t lost anything, but I’ve gained so much. Firstly, I’ve gained an appreciation for my body and a more positive relationship with it, when I used to take it for granted. I have gained not only a greater sense of respect for myself, but for other people too. It has unlocked levels of empathy that I wouldn’t have accessed before and made me a more considerate and understanding human being; wiping almost all prejudices and preconceptions of people away because you never truly know their story. It has changed my priorities and broken through any superficial thoughts and habits that I’ve had, gaining a perspective of what truly matters. I’ve gained an insight and perspective of a world that I otherwise would not have encountered and it has bettered me as a person in ways that I can’t describe. The experiences I may have lost are replaced with new unique ones, from ambulance rides to wheelchair racing and the days and plans which turn into staying in with a cup of tea have turned out to be some of the best memories I have because I am with my best friends and that's all that matters. Following on from this and most of all, I’ve gained a type of friendship that’s unconditional, unassuming, and indescribable which outweighs any losses I may have. I am not thankful that my friends have disabilities, I truly wish I could cure them and take whatever it is that’s not making them feel well and carry that burden for them. However, from it I have learnt so much and gained so much, it is just unfortunate that this is how I have had to learn these lessons and develop these friendships.
(Originally published 25/03/20)