International Day of People with Disability
Today, Saturday 3 December, marks International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), which aims to increase awareness, understanding, acceptance and celebrate the achievements of people living with a disability.
Young Epilepsy blogger, Becky Hully, shares her views on whether epilepsy is seen as a disability.
Do I see epilepsy as a disability? Yes, I do. It is a long-term health condition that requires me to take medication to control it. Is there anything wrong with seeing epilepsy as a disability? Absolutely not. Being disabled is nothing to be ashamed of; it is purely a label. It is not a label that defines us or changes who we are, it just recognises that we are all different and sometimes we need extra support in some way.
To me, labels are put on presents, packages, drinks, foods and so on, and they are put on to add more detail to what they are, they do not change the content and that’s why we should not think that our label will automatically change us.
Sometimes it might feel nice to think you don’t need any extra help or support, but when you accept you have a long-term health condition, you should realise that when you accept help, you are doing yourself a massive favour and you are making your life a little bit easier.
A lot of people that do not have a clear enough understanding of the word ‘disability’ tend to automatically pair ‘disabled’ with the word ‘limited’. When I was first diagnosed with epilepsy that word would be in the back of my head constantly and I would always worry about limitations. But I think that represents a limited knowledge and understanding of what a disability is. It is true that with epilepsy you will face more limitations and some things may be more challenging, but not many people in the world go through a smooth and obstacle free life. I’ve always wanted to jump out of a plane (a tandem jump) for my 18th birthday and that dream was put on hold because I was advised if I wanted to do something like that, I should be seizure free for at least three years. I am now 23 years old and I will be three years seizure in April and I will certainly be jumping out of that plane sometime soon after. I know after waiting a lot longer than I ever thought I would have to, I will enjoy and remember that experience so much more.
People living with a disability will learn to appreciate things more and to also develop certain skills or abilities that counteract certain obstacles. For example, I know I can never be completely carefree (not many people can be either!). I must always remember my medication, to look after myself sufficiently and to get enough sleep, but I know I could be significantly more empathetic and understanding than a lot of other people that do not have a health condition or disability, if a friend or family member needed someone to be there for them during a hard time. There may be limitations, but it is always important to see what you can also gain from a disability.
Hardly anyone in the world is 100% healthy all the time, there are so many people who struggle with different health conditions and different disabilities, so no one should ever feel alone and everyone should feel open to talking. One of the most important things to remember is to not let your health or disability define you. You are who you are and if you have an extra label such as ‘epileptic’, it’s important to remember that these labels do not change who you are, they are just an addition and you can choose if and how it will shape you. Remember, there are benefits that can outweigh the limitations. I choose to focus on what I can do and how bigger personal obstacles can achieve bigger personal rewards.