The “Lazy” Disabled Friend

Do you know someone who can no longer work?  

Have you ever looked at them and thought to yourself, they can work?!  Or, “if I can work, they can work”.  

We put so much of our identity into what we do for a living, our career, our job.  In many cases when that is taken away, what do we do?  

None of us are invincible.  Anything can happen at any time leaving us unable to work or continue to do what we’re passionate about.  

Perhaps the surgeon who can no longer operate due to illness or injury, or the Fireman who loved his job, his firehouse, and his second family. Because of an illness he can no longer do what he loved doing more than anything.  Or, the Verizon Technician who loved climbing poles for over thirty years and was forced to retire at age fifty because of a disabling condition.

“Work” is something everyone can relate to.  Unless you work weekends, Fridays are celebrated and Sunday afternoon becomes “Smonday”.  

Looking back when I worked in N.Y.C., my life revolved around my job.  Stylish clothes were ironed and put out for the week.  I looked forward to lunches, going out after work, and vacations. 

Being an Emergency Medical Technician was the job I enjoyed most. Only after a few years, my strength was mysteriously diminishing and little did I know, I’d be diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis years later.  At the time, I chalked it up to “age” and out of neccessity began working in a nursing home.  The hours were ideal, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., eventually working less and less days a week even going to overnights hoping they would be easier. 

My jacket, still hanging in my closet.

Why am I telling you this?  

For some reason people unintentionally or intentionally let me know how hard they work, as if I’m having a party on my sofa every day or on a glamorous vacation somewhere.  The perception is one that we’re lazy.  Or, we’re taking advantage of some imaginary illness.  I would do anything to be able to go back to my job. Instead, my arms and hands are stiff and burning so badly accompanied by a host of other things as my body wastes away from a progressive disease.

The things most people take for granted, we’re fighting for every day.

Most of us if not all of us miss our jobs and our paychecks.  A lot of us have extremely expensive conditions that have extremely expensive medications, equipment, and even car and home modifications.  Insurance doesn’t cover/pay for everything with very high and very often unaffordable copays.

We worry about the future, being able to provide for our families, and even care for ourselves.

A job does not equal self worth, regardless of what job it IS or ISN’T. 

Not all disabilities are visible and in many cases they’re not talked about.  When they are, personally speaking, you’re not going to find a selfie of me sitting on my sofa with my hands so stiff I can’t break a chalky pill in half or copy and paste an e-mail, as I drink my coffee and hope I don’t choke.  No way!  I’m a self proclaimed gym “beast”, or so I like to think……or wish. The reality is, the gym is the only place I don’t feel so disabled.

People with disabilities want to work.  We’re not lazy.  We want to be contributing members of society.  We miss our jobs and our paychecks.  When you complain about your job, we’re wishing we had one. 

When possible, and if given the opportunity, we find a job we CAN do.  We redefine what’s important to us and even our identity, becoming better than we’ve ever imagined because of our disability and not because of our job.

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