Tag Archives: Being disabled

Overcoming my fear of the dishwasher

“What is the biggest thing that stops people from living their lives in the present moment? Fear – and we must learn how to overcome fear”

Brian Weiss

For the past several months, my dishwasher has been slowly dying.

Shortly after I graduated high school, my mom and I decided to redo our kitchen; new counters, new cabinets, new appliances, new everything. Along with choosing the design for the counters, backsplash, and cabinets,; there were several changes I made to the layout so it would be more accommodating for me. First of all, we had a wall knocked down, making the kitchen bigger.  Also, we installed a wall oven so I no longer had to worry about bending down and falling into the oven like Hansel and Gretel. We had several pull-down cabinets installed (great for the vertically challenged) and positioned the stove top near the sink so when making pasta noodles, the pot could just be slid across the counter and drained, instead of having to carry a hot pot across the room (and most likely burning myself). But my favorite thing, which was not cheap, was a dishwasher with drawers!
Years ago, as I was relearning to walk after cancer and radiation, I used to fall quite often. Imagine a baby first learning to walk, except I was 8 years old, was overweight from steroids, and my falls definitely caused a little more damage. My poor knees have permanent scars from some of my greatest falls or those scraps that kept getting reopened. I used to have the tendency to fall into things and break them. The dishwasher happened to be one of those things, one with a single door that pulls down  I landed on top of the door several times when it was open, nearly breaking the door off and causing it to leak as it ran. Needless to say, I felt terrible when this happened and avoided the dishwasher at all costs when it was open. I became afraid of a dishwasher.
So you can imagine my surprise when I found a dishwasher with drawers that I couldn’t break. I was actually really excited about a dishwasher! It had two separate drawers just like a dresser, both equal in size, and you didn’t have to run both at the same time. Sometimes I loaded and washed only the top drawer, other times I loaded both drawers. And the best part was, if I lost my balance accidentally, I didn’t have to worry about breaking it!
dishwasher
But as the saying goes, all good things come to an end and after almost ten years, the dishwasher started dying. The top would no longer drain properly and one day, it just stopped working. So we were stuck with only the bottom drawer, minimizing the amount of dishes we used and more than often, just hand-washing them instead. Then after about four months of this, the dishwater started to make a terrible grinding noise when it was on. I was worried it was going to start a fire, my mom was worried it would flood the kitchen. We attempted to have someone take a look at it and fix it but it ended up that a dishwasher with drawers is so rare and only manufactured by one company so finding someone was next to impossible. So we decided it was finally time to get a new one but were quickly reminded how expensive the dishwasher with drawers was compared to standard dishwashers with a pull-down door. I even searched ADA websites because honestly, dishwashers with a pull-down door are not that user-friendly for people who are wheelchair bound or have other physical limitations. But I couldn’t find anything.  It baffles me how able-bodied people and companies don’t consider these things sometimes, how a simple appliance is not always user-friendly when you’re disabled. After debating over whether the cost would be worth it to get my dream dishwasher again,  I decided to face my fear of breaking the dishwasher and go back to using one with the pull-down door.
After going to Lowes and testing out the doors, I swallowed my fear and bought one with a very sturdy door that would not snap immediately if it was accidentally bumped or fallen on top of.
But something I realized in this process is that my walking is not like it was 20 years ago. Yes, I may not walk straight, have a slight limp, stumble at times, and walk as if I’m drunk but I am no longer an overgrown baby first learning to walk. I do not fall everyday like I used to and thank goodness for that because my knees can’t handle that much falling anymore.  I have better control of my walking, and am more aware of my movements.  Through therapists and coaches, I have learned what works best for me. For example, saying “slow down” is not always good for me. I learned that walking slow also gives my brain too much time to disrupt the signals it sends to my feet. Therefore, what starts out as good foot placement becomes bad foot placement and could result in falling. It is best for me to walk at a steady, controlled,semi-quick pace, not giving my brain time to think or mess up things. This does mean I should walk fast, not a good idea, but is just something I’ve come to be aware of with my body.
The style of my new dishwasher may have some negative memories attached to it but my fear and past experiences should not dictate the present moment. I am a different person now compared to who I was 20 years ago and I am not going to let my fear keep me having clean dishes. So bring it on dishwasher,  I’m not afraid of you!
Live with intention,
Be bold in the face of adversity,
Live the life you were destined for

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A brief reflection

Typically I try to write a blog that has a moral, a lesson, or something to think about but today I’m totally abandoning that idea.

Most of you have probably seen or heard about the movie Me Before You which hits theaters next week and is based off of Jojo Moyes’ book. The book is about a man who is involved in an accident and becomes quadriplegic. After living with his disability for several year, he decides he no longer wants to live and seeks out physician assisted suicide. As a last hope, his family hires a companion to take care of his mental well-being and show him that life is worth living whether disabled or not.

 

After reading several critiques of this book and negative Facebook posts from my friends, I was initially very bothered by this book. Because of my own personal experiences, I am completely against physician assisted suicide. Growing up with a father who had ALS, I saw firsthand how much he suffered because of the disease and he would have been the perfect candidate for physician assisted suicide but wanted nothing to do with that.  Instead he chose life and lived with disease for eight years despite being told he only had two years.  I can only imagine the pain he went through on a daily basis, both physically and mentally, but having him there when I was younger has shaped who I am today. Strong, determined, and fearless.

Two years after his diagnosis, I developed childhood brain cancer. After several surgeries to remove the cancer, it kept growing back, proving to be just as stubborn as I am. So I was forced to undergo radiation which destroyed the cancer but scattered throughout my brain, leaving me physically disabled and nearly killed me. Within months, I lost all of motor functions including being able to crawl, let alone walk. One of the worst things is I lost all facial movement and couldn’t smile or frown. Thankfully with the help of a couple surgeries, my smile came back. But anyways, at my worst point, I basically laid around my house looking lifeless. Months after the radiation, my parents were told I would be dead within weeks. That was about 18 years ago. Since then I’ve slowly regained a majority of what I lost. I am able to walk but have a very unsteady gait and tend to look like I’m drunk when walking, awkwardly taking one step at a time. Learning to live life while being physically disabled has not been easy but if I would have given up on my life at 8 years old, I would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences. So long story short that is why I oppose physician assisted suicide.

After seeing that this is what happens in Me Before You and how it is portrayed a romantic film, I was disgusted. And especially with the idea that this is what some of society believes about the disabled, that it is better to be dead than disabled. Like seriously?! What is wrong with people?! Immediately I bought the book with the idea of reading it so I could complain about everything that was wrong with it.

Besides the ending, I absolutely loved this book which I did not expect at all. Yes, it is over-dramatized at times and it does include stereotypes about being disabled but it is also incredibly realistic. There were times I cried, times I laughed out loud, and times when I just thought “I know exactly what you’re feeling, been there, done that!”

This book shows someone who goes from being able-bodied and career driven to becoming disabled and has their perspective of life completely flipped upside down. Yes, maybe the author isn’t disabled herself and yes, it is just a fictional piece but I can say the feelings Will Traynor has are similar to my own at times. Not to be a spoiler but there are definitely moments where I thought “This sounds strangely familiar, have you been following me?!”

Although I was only 8 years old when I became disabled, it is difficult to let go of what was and accept what is. I still have memories of running and walking carelessly on the beach when I was younger and even though I love my life and have accepted being disabled, there are times when I miss what was or think what if. This book really captures that idea.

It also touches on how people who were once your close friends before, tend to distance themselves from you because they are unsure or uncomfortable. Society can be so cruel, so self-centered, self-righteous, and narrow-minded, that they inadvertently treat all people with disabilities like they’re contagious or just shouldn’t exist at all. And the sad thing is most people are extremely blind to this.

The most important message, if you get past all of the issues about suicide and all the other critiques; it is that more than often people who disabled need extra support sometimes. They need a constant cheerleader or even a whole squad to help push them forward. I know if I did not have my best friend, my mom, my family and close friends, that I would probably have given up a long time ago.

In my opinion, this book does a fantastic job portraying what it is like to be disabled, how society tends to view the disabled as an inconvenience or a burden, and how even when you are surrounded by people who love and support you, it is still very easy to feel alone, overwhelmed, and depressed with your situation.

I encourage everyone to read this book and see the movie. (Hopefully Hollywood doesn’t mess it up too much) It will give you an insight into what it is like to become disabled. I expected to hate this book and not even be able to finish it but this is one I want to read again and again.

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Filed under Being disabled

Forget about cottages, we’re building mansions

We never know where we will be at the end of our journey. We do, however, know where we are today; and from there we can mine our hope and love to set the course forward. Our attitude shifts our sails and ultimately determines not only our final destination but more importantly, the voyage and experiences along the way.

Like most people after college, I have struggled to find a job.  Being a communication studies major, my strength is in writing and journalism but I also understand marketing, public relations and broadcasting. Shortly after graduating, I helped St John School write a grant proposal in order to purchase iPads and they were awarded $60,000. (not too bad for having little to no knowledge about grant writing) After finishing that proposal, I started to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity of Carroll County, joining their fundraising and PR committee and managing their Facebook page. I figured while I look for another job, might as well volunteer my time, keep my skills fresh, and help out the community.

It’s safe to say job searching has been a very long and frustrating experience! Application after application, filling out them is a full time job in itself. And then of course there’s some companies you hear from and then those you don’t hear from at all.  There is also those who will call for a phone interview and upon hearing my voice, maybe it’s just my negative thoughts, but they assume I am not mentally capable of doing the job. (Do you not see that I graduated with a four year degree, am a motivational speaker and wrote and published my autobiography?!) For months I went without even an interview and then all of a sudden, it seemed as though I had one every week.

Recently I had an interview, the job seemed like a perfect fit and I felt confident when I left the interview but on Friday, I got the email that they chose another candidate. So after wallowing in my self pity for about an hour, drinking some chocolate milk (my comfort drink) and thinking I’m a complete failure, I started to think maybe not having a job has been a blessing in disguise. Not having a job has allowed me to have a flexible schedule and always available. Like when I am asked to speak at a retreat on a Wednesday morning or sometime during the day, I don’t have to consult my work schedule. When I was asked to testify against the physician assisted suicide bill last year, I was free and able to help in any way that I could. (That was a pretty awesome experience) I have also had time to figure out what is important to me and to separate the college Beth from the post college Beth. And most importantly, I probably never would have started or had time for a blog with a job.

Shortly after I started to think this, I got an email from a friend saying she knew someone who works for the company I had just applied to and put in a good word for me! (I really would love the job!!) Here’s hoping to getting an interview and a job! Although it is a bit long, I love this analogy by C.S. Lewis. Guess maybe that other job wasn’t meant for me.

“Imagine yourselves as an living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

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