I am happy and proud to introduce to you a remarkably successful man who has shared the following article to our blog. I know you will be as impressed with him as I am. Introducing Mr. Paul Mensell!
Disability Pride—Be happy
By Paul Mansell
Most of my life I viewed my disabilities through the medical model. I had a diagnosis and a prognosis, labels. I saw myself as broken, needing to be fixed by health care professionals. They couldn’t fix me, so I was really stuck. I was ashamed of my disabilities and I tried my best to conceal them. It was a huge mental load to carry, and got me nowhere. My chief ambition was to be a well behaved, compliant, patient, and to hide my disabilities as much as possible.
I talked to my ILS worker and told her the load I was carrying and how it was weighing me down. I told her how accurate my view was, how I saw doctors for my disabilities, took medicines for my disabilities, and had blood work done for them. She listened to me and then asked was my view getting me anywhere?
I said “no,” and I began to reconsider how I looked at my disabilities.
It is my experience that changes in long time and deeply held beliefs don’t happen all at once. They happen in baby steps. The first was to identify my strengths and my accomplishments. The next was to look at my future. This was all very positive and was easy to celebrate and take pride in myself.
This left me in a conundrum. Here I was trying to celebrate part of my life– and be ashamed about other parts of my life. It didn’t work for me. My disability experience is a big part of who I am and it has influenced my thoughts, feelings, and values. I can clearly say that I would not be the same person without my disabilities. I am definitely more patient, persistent, and tolerant than I would otherwise have been. In this I am most grateful.
Seeing the totality of who I am, led me to decide that I wanted to celebrate all of me—my strengths, abilities, accomplishments, my disabilities, and my limitations. It may seem counter-intuitive to celebrate having tonic clonic seizures, but it became the only logical thing to do for me. All of this change of thought and attitude, like I said, came in baby steps, but it did come because I wanted to be authentic to myself.
I was celebrating all of me and I was feeling a load was lifted from my shoulders. People noticed this and complimented me on my change in disposition. This made me feel even better. Then I took another step. I decided to take pride in my disabilities as part of taking pride in my whole self. I felt I couldn’t pick and choose what about me I had pride in. I was proud of all of me. This made me feel truly liberated. I felt so free, like an eagle soaring in the skies.
The thought came to me that I should take another baby step. I have been taking a lot of baby steps these days. The thought was to help others celebrate their entire selves, including their disabilities. I want to free others of guilt, shame, and dependency. I believe we all have a right to happiness, and we should not let health issues or social attitudes get in the way of experiencing the joy and wonder of life.
Life is brief. One moment it is here, and the next it is gone. Let’s cherish the here and now, and not let the trivial matters get in the way. Each person is unique, valuable, meaningful, and worthy of respect.
Let’s be happy!
About the Author, Paul Mansell: I am a San Diego native. I went to Sweetwater Highschool, Southwestern Community College, and earned a BA and an MA from SDSU. I am employed at the San Diego Regional Center where I support self-advocacy in the community.