|Disability is never anyone’s total identity. We are much more than what society has categorized as our inability to do certain things. We can all agree on that.
And yet, disability in its myriad forms is undoubtedly part of who we are. (Each one of us has something, right? The so-called able-bodied may have trouble accepting that, but there’s help for them…)
The challenge is in figuring out where disability fits into our identity, our life story. But the really exciting part is that we can write that story. Each of us can tell the world who we are, social constructs be damned.
Human beings have the unique facility among the animal kingdom to use language. It is, in fact, the way we survive. We use language to process the large and small events of our lives and to give them meaning. As the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Joan Didion wrote, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” Indeed.
But telling our stories, finding our identities, can be daunting. How to begin? Where to go?
As a person with a disability, we have to figure out how we feel about ourselves. And that will in turn influence how we tell our story and what story we tell. We may struggle with negative feelings of inadequacy.
But by using language, by telling our story and having it exist outside of our own heads, we can influence how that story evolves. We can share it with others, compartmentalize it, even put it away on a shelf for a while. We can figure out what it means and whether we want to change the story line.
This process also works for medical professions, caregivers and care providers. They, too, have a story to tell.
There are doctors and nurses who write about their own experiences in meeting patient needs, creating a for-their-eyes-only “parallel chart” to the official hospital chart. Employing narrative medicine, people in challenging jobs have found that they can write their way into a better understanding of their patients and clients. On one side there’s the data, on the other side, their human response to that data. The transcription of facts into feelings, if you will.
The objective of this session is to provide tools for us to tell our stories.