When I was first diagnosed with a disability and realized I could no longer walk, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was diagnosed with an auto immune disease that attacks your muscles. I lost 50 percent of my muscles in my legs and arms. For what seemed like an eternity was only about 30 days of me going to and from the doctors to really understand the severity of my disease and how my life would forever change with this disability diagnosis.
Adjusting to a New Normal After a Disability Diagnosis
When you are dealing with a life changing situation, people aren’t sure how to approach you. They don’t know if they should be sympathetic, pretend everything is normal, or check on you every five minutes because they are not sure how to reac. After about 6 month of rehab, my doctor’s office asked me to come to a women’s support meeting to speak to ladies that were new to having mobility challenges for various reasons. Once I understood my disease, I made a personal choice to talk to others who needed a friend, mentor, or a shoulder to cry on.
Becoming a Mentor to Other Disabled Women
The first time I spoke at the women’s meeting, I told them that all their emotions were completely valid. I explained to them there are times when you will feel sad, angry, and even optimistic about your future. That all comes with time. My primary focus to meeting with them was to show them there is life after being disabled, and everyone must find their new “norm.” We all had to learn what we could do and what our limitations are. More importantly, we learned when it was okay to ask for help. I meet with the ladies from my doctor’s office once a month via Zoom. I share with them how critical my Edge® 3 power wheelchair with iLevel® was for me in my recovery to getting back out in the world again. I talked to them about different devices used to make life a little easier when you have lost your mobility or just have mobility challenges. Meeting with these ladies showed me that I need to be a beacon of light for those who thought their future was so dim after becoming disabled.
Becoming an Example to Kids Who Have a Disability
Not long after, I volunteered at my kids’ school to show them that parents who are disabled can be just as active as non-disabled parents, it just looks a little different. Along this journey, I met a few kids who were navigating their school environment with a disability. They get excited when they see me as they have told me they want to be like me when they grow up. I didn’t understand it then, but I get it now. I realized my experiences were really about all those men, women, and children that just needed to see that there is life after becoming disabled.
About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.
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