How do I explain what I’ve been feeling lately? In a nutshell, I guess I could say that I’ve been depressed. It’s not as though I haven’t experienced this before. We all have those moments. But usually these moments are predicated by the dissolution of some promising relationship or the feeling that I’m stuck in my life. Neither of these scenarios applies to me right now. In fact, now that I’ve picked myself up and moved to another city (granted, Philly is not far from NYC but it feels as though I’m in a totally different part of the country), I know I can do this again.
CDC reports from 2005 indicate that roughly 22% of Americans had a disability, and disability-related costs for medical care and lost productivity exceeded $300B. The most common cause of disability is arthritis or rheumatism (MMWR, 2005). These disease categories typically do not produce visible signs of a disability and individuals suffering from them do not benefit from standard structural work accommodations.
A few years ago, I sat down with a friend of mine who was faced with a perplexing problem. After years of battling Lupus and a host of other health complications, which prevented her from being able to find regular employment, she found a promising new job. But there was one problem: she was going to earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. So she asked me to take a look at the plan that was being offered by her new employer to help her determine if it was manageable, or to see if we could find a better option. As I met with her, I found myself using terminology that wasn’t familiar to her, and I was reminded that the vocabulary I learned after years of advocating for myself isn’t something that is part of our regular vernacular. After all, our insurance system isn’t exactly user-friendly.
There’s a reason Cookie Monster was my favorite Sesame Street character when I was a kid. As a child, I hated eating. I just never had an appetite. (Oh, how things have changed!!) As a result, I often resorted to eating junk food because it was the only thing I could stomach. Except that I couldn’t really, because I always had an upset stomach. My parents once cautioned me that if I continued my junk food diet, there would come a day when my body – that was already fragile – would revolt. And that day came.
Last year my friend and I took a trip to Belize together. During that trip my friend convinced me that I’d be able to climb to the top of this Mayan ruin. I thought about staying at the bottom and waiting for her to return, but I didn’t want to be left out. So I climbed along with her. I’m so glad I did! From the top of that structure we could see all the way to Guatemala. Thanks to my friend for encouraging me and opening my eyes to possibility and beauty.