Let’s Talk Disabilities

The story my family tells me is that I just couldn’t walk right as a kid and that was how they determined that I have a genetic disorder passed around on my dad’s side of the family. 
It’s referred to as spastic paralysis and what that really means is that I have leg cramps in the calves of my legs 24/7. The thing about it is that I used to think it was normal and when I really did get a cramp it would temporarily paralyze me. I remember my freshman year of softball, we were running lines in the gym when it happened. Having people run over with icey hot, forcing my leg to stretch out, while I cried in pain in front of my entire team was probably one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Two of my coaches carried me out to my mom’s car that day because walking, let alone standing was impossible. 
The cure to this disorder doesn’t technically exist yet. There are multiple research studies going on, and before you recommend something, believe me, I’ve likely already tried it. Something that doctors gave me while I was growing up were leg braces. I don’t actually know who came up with the idea that leg braces would help me, because they honestly just made my feet heavier and made me drag my feet more. 
I have countless battle scars from tripping and falling on my face. If my embarrassment wasn’t enough from walking weird, I also had teachers confront me. In third grade I got a chair that was shorter than everyone else’s in my class because my feet couldn’t touch the floor. That chair followed me through 4th, 5th and 6th grade. Just to add, my old theatre director gave it to me as a graduation present (I couldn’t keep it, he just brought it to the scene shop and helped me get my name off of the bottom). 
Leg braces: hardest article to cover up to the public; also known as ankle killers, and cramp inducers. I’ve had them since I was kid and they never seemed to have an actual effect on my leg pain. 
There’s the people who offer their concern, and then there’s the people who bluntly say things like, “pick up your feet.” (As if I’m not trying to). If I could give you an actual number for the amount of shoes I’ve literally walked through, then maybe it could be a better example. We could talk about how my older sister has a growing shoe collection where at one point I had one pair that didn’t actually have holes in them yet. 
I get asked frequently if I’ve hurt myself because I’m limping or dragging my feet. The answer is no. I’m fine, I’m literally just walking and as long as I’m going in the direction of my destination, then it doesn’t actually matter how I get there. I appreciate the concern, don’t get me wrong, but then comes the whole, “have you tried (insert some expensive therapy here).” 
Medications? Had them. Muscle relaxers? Yeah, don’t expect me to move after one finally sets in. The point is, I might have a disability, but I wouldn’t ever consider myself disabled. I’m still functional and over time, it has gotten better (not cured, but better). 

The point is, I might have a disability, but I wouldn’t ever consider myself disabled.

I could tell you about the comparisons between my condition and other relatives in the same blood line, but truth is, we’ve all experienced it differently. This one could be for the people who can still live a “normal” life with carrying around some variety of disability. 
I have a great understanding that not all disabilities can be covered up and have a worse condition, like I said, my relatives have experienced this whole passing of genetics differently. This is not meant to belittle, degrade or expose people for how they get through life. 
This is a reflection of personal growth. I drag my feet and can still hold my head up and pretend like I’m not thinking about the amount of people who could be judging me. My pain is nowhere near what it used to be and when it does get bad, I know it won’t last as long. I can run, swim and do other things that other people do. 

My Trans Experience

Let me start off by saying that people can do what they want in life and there’s nothing you can do about it. People are allowed to make their own decisions and live how they want. I’d also like to note that I got approval from the individual I’m talking about before posting this.

Now, that being said, keep it mind throughout the remaining story.
In 2011 I met someone who one day would be one of my best friends, but I didn’t know that until 2014 when they finally started working at the same pool with me. During our time working together and hanging out outside of work, I developed a huge crush on said person. Which after months of me trying to flirt and trying to make it obvious that I had a thing for them, he finally noticed. 

It was awkward because he didn’t actually have feelings for me and I just kind of accepted that nothing would happen between us. That was until I got a text one night of him confessing that he really  did like me. Eventually at 2am we finally concluded that we were dating, but we didn’t actually tell anyone. Instead we just posted it on Facebook and waited for the reactions of friends and family. 

Working together wasn’t really all that awkward either. I’m not one for public displays of affection because of how uncomfortable it makes people feel, so the people we weren’t friends with on Facebook didn’t actually realize we were a thing. Which was funny to me because people would tell me how attractive they thought he was and I just kind of laughed it off and waited for them to figure it out. 

We were together for over a year and even though it wasn’t very long, it felt like longer (likely because we worked together almost everyday and those shifts just blur together with the amount of time I’ve spent working at the pool). Things started changing and I didn’t really notice or put it together in my head. Things like him shaving his legs (lots of swimmers do that) or growing his hair out (the man bun is trending). More things have happened but like I said, I never put it all together in my head. I had other things going on that were more time consuming.

It wasn’t until just before Thanksgiving that he told me that he didn’t want to be a guy anymore. If I’m honest, I didn’t have the best reaction and was totally against it. We didn’t talk for a couple days and during that time I started adding it all together, he’d been transitioning for months, I just hadn’t realized it. When we did talk again, he told me that he was “testing the waters” with me. It didn’t make up for the fact that I’d known him for years, been dating him for a while and now had to accept him as something other than a man. 

We broke up. I felt that him changing and me staying with him would be changing my identity and that’s not something I wanted to do. It was rough for everyone involved, especially since when we broke up, it was during Thanksgiving break. I was in a house with 20 of my family members and he was at home by himself. 

Time went by, people learned that we were no longer together and it was awkward. We agreed to put on happy faces and try to be friends because I really don’t like making people feel awkward or uncomfortable. Everyone at work was understanding and eventually she came out as a girl to our coworkers who hadn’t figured it out already. 

I was proud, it was a huge step, but I also wasn’t feeling great about the transition process. Her and I talked about it a few times and overall I didn’t actually understand what she was trying to achieve or why she felt the need to change. It wasn’t any of my business though, people can do what they want. That didn’t change the fact that I felt entitled to answers that didn’t actually exist (they weren’t anything I actually wanted to hear). 

It was easy to fake it at work or at school. It was easy to pretend that I was nothing but supportive of it all in front of people who should also feel like it’s okay. The hard part was when we hung out or when she first started wearing makeup. What really hit hard was when I saw her in a one piece swimming suit for the first time. I felt like the whole time I spent holding myself down and together just ended. She hadn’t made any huge transition with her body yet, and from what I understood didn’t plan to. 

It was too much for me. It was too much for a few other people that were going to have to get used to the change just like I had to. I’ve known other people who now identify as trans and I never had a problem. This was such a different experience though, I dated this individual and thought I knew them inside and out. I was wrong though. I was wrong with thinking that things would just go back to normal and I’d be fine. I stopped thinking about my own feelings when I tried to make others feel comfortable with what was happening. 

Let me tell you why it’s unhealthy to not think of yourself while pouring into others. It’s unhealthy because you don’t actually realize what you’re saying to other people and if you do, you may or may not realize that you’re lying to yourself and pulling far away from the truth. It’s unhealthy because people are seeing you in a “happy” state of mind when in reality you’re miserable. Everything turns false and when you finally do express how you feel to the person it’s all about, you sound transphobic. 

Maybe I’ve come across as transphobic, change has never been easy for me. I’d also like to point out that I’ve done my best at being there for other people and trying to help them understand that change is okay. I’ve tried extremely hard to be there for her. I’ve talked her through things, helped her with how to change her attitude so that the world wouldn’t seem against her.

The thing is, she didn’t see me in a positive light anymore. She didn’t see me as a friend anymore. I didn’t really know her anymore and couldn’t relate with anything. I told myself that I would respect her as a human being and that even of we were only coworkers, I wasn’t going to judge her identity because I wasn’t a part of it. 

It took a mutual friend talking to her in order for her to understand what I felt. All of my explanations she asked me for just went right over her head until this mutual friend confronted her. It took four months for her to apologize to me for breaking up with me in a poor situation (over a text, in front of my whole family). The relief I felt was incredible. That all changed when her actions didn’t match up to her apology she texted me. She got really good at expressing herself behind a keyboard, but in person things were the complete opposite. 

I still have trouble, but I will still respect her as a person. People can do what they want and there’s nothing anyone else can do about it. 

Now before you go telling or thinking that I’m being dramatic, think about it this way: I’ve never been so close to someone who identifies as transgender and I’ve never dealt with the transition process, I’m one of those people who thinks about the before and after, not the in between. Over time I do imagine myself getting past the struggle to accept what has happened, in the meantime I’ll do my best to keep a smile on my face and cope through the process.

It Happened

So in January I told myself that I was going to write more. It started when I went slightly overboard on a Thanksgiving weekend trip with a Facebook note about my family. Some things I can get carried away with, this might be one of them, but kudos to you for reading so far!

This blog is for stories about personal growth, day to day life, and the events that unravel in front of me.

When New Years Eve rolled around I was with some long time friends in the town I grew up in. While there, everyone was looking and talking about their year and what happened for them. I have been known to not express myself rightfully in the best times, so naturally it wasn’t a positive experience for me. I looked at 2016 and saw more negative than anything else. It wasn’t until the next day that my pessimistic mind shut down and I finally was able to pull out good things that happened. I made it a goal of mine to express myself more in hopes that I might actually become more positive by doing so.

Whether or not that will actually happen… Well we’ll find out when I reflect on 2017. Weekly updates are too dramatic for me, especially since I try to fill my time with work or hanging out with people who matter to me. You can expect one to two posts on here monthly (unless I get carried away). Thanks for reading!

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