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My Identity And How My Disability Defines Me

My name is Emma, and I’m a Scottish lassie. I’m a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a (fantastic) auntie, and a friend. I’m a writer, a blogger, a Muscular Dystrophy trailblazer, a Euan’s Guide Ambassador, and a disability campaigner. These are just some of the identities and labels I go by.

I’m also disabled.

Of all my labels, “disabled” is without a doubt the first thing people identify me as when they see me rolling down the street, doing my shopping, or whatever it may be that I’m doing at the time. I reckon the wheelchair is a big giveaway.

Although I have had a few baffled responses from customers at my work whenever I reverse my wheelchair from the desk and they catch a glimpse of my legs, they realise I am actually a wheelchair user. The look on their faces as they tell me “I didn’t realise you were in a wheelchair, I’m so sorry”. This would often make me feel a little uncomfortable and sometimes not sure how to respond. By saying how sorry they were implied they viewed my disability as something negative like my life was miserable or something to be pitied. They couldn’t be further from the truth.

Obviously, their first impression of me was that I was non-disabled as they only saw from the waist up until I moved away from my desk. Why would it surprise them so much? Why would it even matter if I was in a wheelchair or not? They would receive the same service from me either way.

Does Disability Define Me

A project on identities got me thinking about my identity and what it means to me. “Who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others,” This is the definition of “identity” according to the Cambridge dictionary.

We all have an identity. It’s what makes us who we are. Muscular Dystrophy and my wheelchair are part of who I am. So does my disability define me? Yes, it does. Is that a bad thing? Only if I make it one.

My Identity And How My Disability Defines MeFor a very long time, I thought my disability didn’t define me. Maybe I got caught up in the whole “my disability doesn’t define me” mantra. Who knows? I certainly wasn’t ashamed or resentful of my disability. I guess I wanted people to see me not just my disability, but as I said, my disability is part of me. It can’t be hidden and it isn’t going anywhere. I’ve come to realise that it’s a big part of my life and I’m totally ok with that.

Would I be the same person if I could walk or live independently on my own? I’d like to think I would be, but with my disability, it’s brought its fair share of struggles as well as strengths, and I have little quirks as a result of it. I’m proud of those quirks, and you should be proud of yours. Without my disability, I wouldn’t have the qualities that make up my identity.

Growing up with a progressive muscle weakness condition has majorly impacted my life and the way I view the world in many ways. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning, I’m subconsciously reminded that I’m disabled as I lay there unable to sit up and get myself out of bed. I must wait until my partner is awake before he physically gets me up and transfers me into my wheelchair.

My entire day is then structured around strict routines and timings, with people doing almost everything for me. From taking me to the toilet, showering, dressing, preparing meals, styling my hair, and driving me from A to B to simple things like scratching my nose, I literally need help with everything in some form or another. So my disability does define me, and in quite a big way.

Learning to Embrace My Disability

There are certainly challenges involved with having a disability, but there are so many awesome things that it has brought into my life too. Having to wait for someone to do everything for me has given me the patience of a saint. Trust me! That old saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself” is something I will never say because 9.9 times out of 10 I will need help with it anyway.

It has allowed me to meet some amazing people who have become great friends through my work as a disabled blogger and a Euan’s Guide Ambassador. I would never have met them otherwise, but I am so thankful that I have. It’s allowed me to focus on doing something powerful by raising awareness of disability and accessibility issues. It’s given me fantastic opportunities and the chance to work with amazing organisations, charities, and much more.

My disability has never stopped me from doing what I want to do, whether that be going to university, gaining employment, finding love, or travelling to exciting destinations. It may take me a little longer to do these things, but I get there at my pace and on my own terms.

I’ve learned to embrace my disability and all that it entails. It’s not going to improve (unless some miracle cure is found), so it will always be part of me, so why shouldn’t I embrace it in my own unique way?

How do you view yourself? What do you consider to make up their identity? What defines you?

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This post is sponsored but, as always, all content and opinions are my own.

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Meet Emma

Hello I’m Emma. My mission is to show you the possibilities of accessible travel through my travel guides, tips and reviews. I also share personal stories, live event reviews and more.

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7 Responses

  1. Yes to this! To be very frank with you, I personally find the ‘my illness doesn’t define me’ mantra ridiculous, because it IS a lifelong part of you, and DOES restrict you to a large extent. And like you said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you make it so yourself.

    Having said that, I can also understand why some people view themselves in that light. And if it helps them to cope – definitely go for it!

    Take care!

    1. Hi Sheryl. Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your thoughts on your experience. It’s great to hear that you agree that an illness or disability isn’t necessarily a bad thing unless you make it one. Thanks again for taking the time to comment and I hope you have a lovely Christmas 🙂

  2. Hi Emma,
    What a joy to be here today.
    I found your page in a search today.
    Glad that I found the right person.
    I appreciate you for the way in which you presents your posts with lovely photographs.
    Yes, you really proved that disability is not a liability.
    May you have a great and healthy year 2018.
    Keep sharing.
    Best Regards
    ~ Philip

  3. It’s wonderful that I’m finally reading your article . Emma,Emma you are the captain of your ship. It gets to port when it gets to port. I’m disabled as well with a brain injury. I was in a car accident. This has made me stronger and God has given me a second chance at living. Many blessings for not letting your disability stand in your way of living. It hasn’t stopped me either.

    1. Hi Sana. Thank you so much for your comment. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my blog. I’m delighted you came across it. I hope you are keeping safe and well. Thanks again and take care 🙂

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