Recently I had an experience which made me realise that for people with a disability, attitude determines our experiences and achievements much more than anything else.
During a discussion on disability issues with someone that I have known for a while, it occurred to me that many people make the automatic assumption that independent living support is something all people with a disability receive. I found this attitude surprising, as this person in particular knows that I am quite independent. I felt the need to correct her assumption which, at first, made her angry and incredulous on my behalf. The notion that I did not receive more government and community support seemed entirely shocking to her, not to mention affronting.
Questioning my support needs
I, however, have rarely questioned my support needs and this conversation made me wonder if I should be getting more practical support than I am. I have to admit that I can't manage around the house as well as other people probably can, but I have always been happy just to battle on to the best of my ability. I manage to get most things done and I have my husband to give me a hand when I really need it. So would I really want the extra help - at the cost of living independently? I'm not sure I would. I just want to be free to live as normal a life as possible, without constantly feeling that I must always be
I have to admit that there are some services I used to receive that were helpful, like physiotherapy, but do I think I should be receiving this kind of physical support now? Possibly. But then I have also taken it upon myself to go to the gym and do similar exercises to the ones I used to do. I may not always get to the gym as often as I would like, but I am an adult and can make my own choices about my body and its capabilities. Why is it someone else's responsibility to ensure that I look after my physical health when I am more than capable of doing so myself?
I think getting extra help is definitely the best thing if you need it and it improves your quality of life. There may be a time in the future where I need more help, particularly if I ever have a child of my own. But right now, I think I'm managing well, despite the expectations of others.
Importance of attitude
After thinking about these things at some length, I saw an interview with Para Olympian Kurt Fearnley on the television. He was talking about how, at 17, he moved from a country town to the city and became a bouncer. This made me think that what you do and achieve is not tied to, or about, your disability. It is about your attitude and what you believe you can do. Disability or no disability, few people I know would be that independent, especially at 17. I'm sure there were friends and family who told Kurt that he shouldn't move out on his own, but he has made a success of his life because he hasn't let people influence his perception of his own abilities.
Choosing my own path
When I told my friend that I was happy right now managing on my own, she was very surprised and acted like I was some kind of hero. But I don't think it's heroic to try and do things for yourself, even if it is a bit of a struggle. That is part of living an independent life. Generally you feel a lot better about yourself when you try, than when you just decide that you
can't do something. And, as Kurt Fearnley shows, sometimes what you can do is limited only by belief in yourself.