What does it mean to be disabled? I received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) nearly twenty years ago and I'm still learning.
In the early years (and many of the latter ones too) I was too scared to admit to anyone I had an incurable illness. Denial worked well for me -- like the Law of Attraction in reverse -- out of sight, out of mind, and out of my conscious reality.
But MS must have remained in my subconscious reality because its strange and mysterious symptoms continued to arrive at sporadic and inconvenient times. Like when I woke up thinking I was hungover one morning and was completely blind in one eye by noon. Or the time I was pregnant and lost vision in both eyes for several weeks. Or the day my dog died and I saw the world in duplicate through crossed eyes for the next month.
Don't even ask about my ever present clumsiness, bruises from tripping and falling over nothing, slurring my words when perfectly sober or forgetting even the simplest words and names. It helps to have a sense of humor, and I often blamed these deficiencies on being blonde.
In fact, covering up my symptoms became a source of pride. I even went back to school to become a naturopathic doctor so I could advise others about how they too could cure their "incurable" illnesses with the "right" attitude and lifestyle choices.
But then I became a lawyer.
Everything I had preached about balance and stress management went right out the window, and the endless hours writing legal briefs for corporations I cared little about (for an employer who cared less about me) made me finally admit that MS is a serious dis-ease. Many times while sitting my office the intense itching/burning in the nerves of my hands and arms made me wish I were a wolf caught in a trap so that I would at least have the option of gnawing my wounded limbs off to be free.
But sadly the only trap I was caught in was the snare of working for BigLaw with its lure of financial reward through endless billable hours. So my body solved the problem for me by protesting ever more loudly, and my mind finally had to admit the label "disability" really means something.
It is a humbling experience.
I reluctantly asked for (and begrudgingly received) the accommodation of a reduced hours work schedule.
Five months later I was laid off.
My hope for this blog is that by sharing my thoughts and personal experiences about losing a career, fighting for disability benefits, and facing an entirely new lifestyle will encourage others facing major transitions to share their stories too.