>The Disability Blog Carnival is coming soon.  And it’s theme this time is “balance”

The obvious thing as a CP-er with a topic of balance would be to talk about walking and standing and transferring and the fact that I have very poor balance.  I can stand unsupported but only for a few seconds and a physio once described it as “controlled falling”  But that doesn’t suit me as something to talk about.

There’s a lot of other things that I could talk about when it comes to balance and disability.  Or even balance and life in general.

I suspect that being disabled doesn’t make balancing life and responsibilities and stuff like that any harder than it would be if I were not disabled.  I wouldn’t know.  It seems to make the difficulties more obvious and I know comparing myself to friends who are able-bodied (which isn’t always a good thing) that it’s very different.  I think that if I were to wake up tomorrow and not be disabled I would find the change in issues and problems and perspective as hard as someone who has suddenly become disabled.  Because having been lifelong disabled it would be a huge change.  A paradigm shift, even.

One of the hardest things for me to balance however is the judgement of whether or not a thing is a disability thing or not.  It’s led to me being accused of being too “disability centric” at times.  And told by someone who has no idea whatsoever how much rubbish they were talking that I need to learn to let go of my disability sometimes.

Recently I took part in a project where you had to phone some people and ask specific questions.  I really didn’t enjoy it which surprised me.  I know some of the others who took part didn’t like it either.  From what they said it was the fact they weren’t being completely truthfully they didn’t like.  That never even occurred to me.  I practically hated it because I felt like the questions I had to ask made me look like a complete idiot and that the people I was talking too would be going “oh well, she’s disabled, she doesn’t know any better…”

And then it hit me.

 The people I was speaking too don’t know me.  They know absolutely noting about me.  And it’s over the phone.  They don’t even know I’m disabled.

That’s quite huge because even people who don’t know me know I’m disabled.  I rock up in a wheelchair and I can’t exactly hide that fact.  I always find it kinda strange when I realise that people don’t know that – it’s such a huge, visual obvious part of me.  And it’s something I’m quite proud of.

Another example from a couple of years ago.  Sometimes at CAB I take trainees in with me so they can see what we do.  I’m unusual at CAB because of my age not my disability which is something I found very weird to adjust too (although I am the only wheelchair user where I am).  And I took this trainee in with me.  No offense to them but they could be my parent.

The client kept trying to talk to them not me even when  I was asking questions etc.  They ignored them and let me do what I was doing (trainees are not allowed to speak with clients when interviewing).  And I was convinced I was being ignored because of my disability.  At the end of the interview I was saying that to the trainee.  Who pointed out that it was because I’m young not disabled.  The client had assumed I was the one learning not my trainee.  Big lesson learned there.

There are also times when things happen which aren’t because of my disability they’re just because.  But people around me assume it’s all down to the disability.

Recently I was having a chat with someone about something I’m not very good at.  The fact I’m rubbish at it is obvious.  Everyone is in agreement that I find it harder than they or I expected me too.  And basically I just figured I was crap at it because I just was.

Then the other person (who basically knows little more than CP = wheelchair for me) made the comment that this could be because of my disability.  I said I didn’t know.  My mum said she didn’t know when I asked her either.  I could maybe see it as being related to the whole spatial awareness picture building type problems on a very vague level.  Ever since then I’ve been going “am I just crap at this or is it a CP thing?”

That falls into the we’ll probably never know category but I doubt I would have made the connection without that conversation.

My depression was around in the background for a long time before I went on treatment.  What really tipped me over the edge was three major life events in the space of about four weeks.  Two of which were unexpected.

When I was at uni I was originally enrolled on a Sandwich programme where I should have spent a year in the middle of it out at work for experience.  I applied for loads of positions and had something like eight interviews.  However there were something like 200 people on my course that year (as well as all the people looking for placements from other unis).  And there are never enough placements to go around.  Something like 30 people from my course alone didn’t get a placement.  Practically 15% of people.

I was one of them, the only one with a visible disability (whether any of the others were disabled, I don’t know).  One of the girls I vaguely knew on my course was visually impaired.  She got a placement.  There’s no way you can point blank say “the uni didn’t get me a placement because I’m disabled.”

And yet when as a result of that I had to change my course somewhat and spent a very stressful few days waiting to here from the university what the new course was etc, people assumed it was all down to my disability.  I remember a friend’s dad saying to me “if the uni couldn’t give you a placement because of your disability they shouldn’t have accepted you on the course.”  and I had to explain that actually, this was not a straight forward disability stopping me situation.  And his daughter, my friend? She has CP herself.  Having to explain that again and again  to different people made a tough situation tougher.

Thinking back now I’m not naive enough to think this had absolutely nothing to do with my disability – I suspect employers looking at me and seeing the chair did have a bit to do with why I found myself in that 15%.

But to have to keep thinking and dealing with the fact that people make assumptions about me and my abilities, capabilities, wants, needs, likes, dislikes, who I am just because I’m in the chair?  That’s HARD.  To have to wonder is it because I’m in the chair or is it just because is harder.

And it’s a tough balance for me to come up with. I doubt i’ll ever succeed fully and be able to tick that one off the to do list.

But I’ll keep trying.

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