I don’t like to call my issues “handicaps,” nor am I writing this for pity, just for understanding of what I face in my life (and why I don’t talk on the phone, or stand often during prayer). There have been many times in my life when people have not known about one of my issues, and I’ve had to describe them after being asked to do something. On the surface, I don’t look like I have problems, so it’s impossible to know what the issues are until I talk about them. I also don’t let my issues hold me back from doing things (most of the time) and I am a champion at finding creative workarounds to do what I desire.
First, I was in a car accident that injured my spine as a teen, as an adult, I have ankylosing spondylitis on top of it, which means my back is in a persistent state of pain, from mild to severe, most of the day. If I do too much standing, walking, working out, or even housework, I could be laid up in my bed for hours, my legs numb and pain radiating from my coccyx to my neck. Despite this, I still clean around the house, I still work out as much as I can and I still make my way from point A to point B when I need to go somewhere. I refuse to take pain medications due to their addictive nature and how much they numb every faculty of the human body, so some days I can become completely bedridden, others I might function with some semblance of normalcy.
My back issues have gotten a bit worse in recent years and most recently has cost me my ability to practice martial arts, something I had down for over 40 years. Below are just some of my certificates and such that I’ve garnered over the years, and while I cannot currently practice, I may in fact teach again in the future.
I have had 3 traumatic brain injuries (TBI’s) and because of it, my short-term memory is horrible, so I live by taking notes, lists, and putting everything into a scheduler. Birthdates I need to be reminded of or have written into my scheduler, meetings, appointments, holidays, all go in the scheduler… it functions as my second memory. When I learn something new, I have to consistently drill it into memory, keeping a study journal helps tremendously in retention of what I learn as well. This has been among the easiest of my issues to deal with because as a writer, writing everything down just feels like second nature to me.
I am legally blind, I’m blind in my left eye due to a freak accident when I was five, and my right eye has nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism, and only 15% vision due to a degenerative disease. Now, I grew up an artist and so that kept until current. At 40 years old I began painting and have some rather constructive ways of maintaining this ability, in spite of being legally blind. I have sold over 200 pieces of art in the past two years, throughout several countries around the world.
I have a 70% hearing loss, this was caused by old-fashioned “Water treatments,” and playing loud music in bands for decades. While I have hearing aids, they are currently not working and so I seldom make phone calls. I have started working on reading lips to accompany hearing what I can, but I say “What,” more than lil’ John and a lightbulb salesman combined.
All of these “disabilities,” combined has not broken my smile, my joy, my happiness… nor my desire to learn and grow on a consistent basis. I still do many of the hobbies and things I love today, regardless of the fact I have these setbacks, so I do not let them define me as a person.