Adversity Breeds Awesomeness

*Let it be known that in what you are about to read, my intent is not to gossip. It is only to spread awareness of a horrible prejudice, and share one of the most – if not the most – important lessons I’ve ever learned.

“Yesterday I deactivated my Facebook account. Then I thought about all my long distance family and friends, that I only get to see and talk to through Facebook. Which is why I opened a Facebook account in the first place. It’s also been a place to promote causes that are important to me. So I’m reactivating it.

I realize that not everyone is going to agree with everything I say or do. You might be bothered by the fact that my husband was born in Mexico, the fact that I don’t work because of my disability, or the fact that sometimes my husband and I make the wrong decisions; financially or otherwise. And that’s ok. We do our best to live our lives the way we believe God calls us to, even when others disagree. And sometimes we make mistakes.

However, if we do disagree on anything, I expect we can do it in an adult-like fashion, without name calling, public humiliation, or airing dirty laundry…”

The post went on to say that if you can’t disagree without public humiliation, I will simply block you. Many don’t need to hear that, but surprisingly, a lot do.

Near the end of last week, I shared a photo on Facebook. A photo of a lady holding a sign that described her situation. She is a 34 year old woman, with a job that does not offer insurance benefits. After a trip to the ER, tumors were found in her uterus. Of course, trying to get insurance after that, she was denied based on her pre-existing condition.

The photo brought up the very controversial topic of Obamacare.

Along with the photo, I commented basically that I was neither for nor against Obamacare; Republican nor Democrat. Well, actually I said that I was a little of both. What I did specify was that we need healthcare reform. Because I don’t believe that any hardworking person should have to go without health insurance. I believe that companies like McDonald’s, or Olive Garden, who make millions every year, because of their employees, should offer health insurance to those employees. And I believe that those who cannot get health insurance through a company should be able to purchase an affordable individual plan.

Nothing to do with ‘welfare’; or even Obamacare, really. Everything to do with providers in the medical field exploiting our basic human need for health care. Employers caring more about profit than people. And I don’t see any health insurance companies or medical providers going bankrupt. Not in the real sense of the term.

The sign the lady was holding did start out saying “I am Obamacare”. But like I mentioned, I stated that I was not advocating Obamacare, but some kind of healthcare reform.

My point was not even that ‘people like me’ (Read: people who don’t work and get government assistance) should get health care. It was that people who work hard for their companies every day, should.

But somehow, based on the photo I shared and the words that I said, a family member verbally attacked me. On Facebook, for everyone to see.

The short of it was that she also has pain, but she still goes to work every day, and that I am robbing her by not doing so myself. She went on to refer to me as ungrateful, entitled, uneducated, unintelligent, and irrational, while she listed some of the financial mistakes my husband and I have made in the past.

I retaliated, not by defending my mistakes, or even by telling the other side of that story, but by referring to her as ‘lady’, and listing off all of the reasons why I am, in fact, ‘entitled’ to receive a disability check every month.

And my cousin said some political/social justice things, and my sister said some things that, honestly, made me really proud to be her sister.

My intent was not (and never is) that she, or anyone, would pity me, only that they would not assume that I simply don’t try hard enough.

But then I apologized, because I heard a still, small voice. It said “As much as depends on you, live peaceably.”

I’ve probably only really recognized that scripture twice in my life. Yet there it was, clear as day. I would have to Google it to even tell you what verse it is.

I had not answered by name calling, listing her mistakes, or even mentioning the other side of the story in those financial mistakes. But I had not answered peaceably. So I apologized. She never responded, so I may never know if she read my apology.

The reason I deactivated my account was not because of her. It was because of various family members over time taking similar actions, resorting to Facebook bullying and airing dirty laundry when they disagree with something I say or do. All of them but one over the age of 45.

I’ve been accused of faking and/or over exaggerating my disability (I’ve had multiple surgeries and therapy, starting at the age of 2, so I don’t know how you fake that). They say that I receive ‘special treatment’ from my parents and grandparents because I ‘limp a little’.

This really hurts, specifically coming from family members, and specifically within the past few years, because I have always been independent to a fault.

Regarding working, and then collecting disability, I can honestly say that I worked as hard as I could for as long as I could. I ignored the pain for a long, long time. Then I took OTC meds, then prescriptions, then got a wheelchair, braces, and accommodations. I did everything in my power to keep working. But there came a time when I couldn’t do it anymore, and I felt a peace about leaving, and collecting from a system that I had paid into as long as I could. (Note: I have no qualms about someone not working and getting government assistance if they are unable, whether or not they have paid into it. If you need it, you need it.)

With the help of a very good friend (another shout out to Mrs. C!), and the support of a few others, I realized that trying to communicate this to any of them, or anyone else, doesn’t matter. Because I do not have to defend myself. I have One much greater than any of us to defend me. My only job is to seek first the kingdom of God.

I’ve realized something else in these past few days, with all of this drama. I think a lot of you will find it interesting, maybe eye-opening to your own circumstances. Maybe you will think less of me, because I’m going to be very honest and transparent about some of my own faults. But I hope not. I hope you will just see me as a fellow human being, who has flaws and hurdles to overcome, just like the rest of us.

When I was a kid, I had all these plans about what my life was going to be after I turned 18. I didn’t like that my parents were poor, and had to worry all the time, so I was going to do all the right things to have ‘enough’ money. I didn’t like that their house was always messy, so mine was going to be clean. I thought it was sad how they fought with family members and stopped talking to them, so I wasn’t going to do that. I didn’t understand why a lot of disabled people didn’t have the life that they wanted, so I was going to have it. I was going to be nice, work hard, and make smart decisions.

But life happened, and I’m broke, my house is a mess, and I don’t talk to a growing number of family members (because I give up after multiple attacks on my character), and I can’t even grocery shop without assistance.

Ever since I started seriously losing my mobility and having a lot of pain, a few years ago, and realizing my life is not what I had ‘planned’ it would be, I’ve been asking God why. Full on, crying in the shower, punching my pillow, begging God to either rewind time or show me a reason.

For a long time I blamed it on some influences and problems from my teenage years. If I could have just stayed where I was instead of having to move to such and such place. If I could have done this at that time I wouldn’t have gone down such and such path. Why I listened to the negative voices. Why I hadn’t had more courage. Why I had to have CP. Not because it bothered me to be disabled, but because now the pain got in the way so much. And because of the prejudice and accusations.

Mostly I wanted to know why it felt like I had lost the past 10 years. Why as much as I tried to make the right decisions, they usually turned out to be the wrong ones. But knowing I could have done better, learned more.

I never really thought I would get an answer. I figured it was one of those things I’d have to wait to find out until I ask God when I get there. But going through this in the past few days, I heard my answer: Compassion.

If I had gotten out of my parents’ house and made all the right decisions, made more than enough money, never fought with my family; even not had the pain that I have now, I would be just like this family member who seemed to think that if you do not make enough make enough money to support yourself and your own family, regardless of the reason, you deserved only what your own finances could produce. Even if it meant not enough food or healthcare. Even if that was nothing.

I don’t think I would be as mean as her, but I would think like her. I would look down on my parents, and anyone who didn’t make ‘enough’ money. I would look down on people that didn’t have the career and the life that they wanted. I would even look down on disabled people that didn’t work. And even the ones that could walk, but used a wheelchair. Because if I can, they can too. To me it would be simply a matter of will power. I would assume that, regardless of what their circumstances are or have been, they should have done better. Because I would have no idea.

So I am really glad for all of my adversity. I do plan on turning our financial future around. But I will use my mind and my heart instead of my body. And I won’t look down on anyone who is in a different place. Or tax bracket.

It’s kind of embarrassing to admit all of that, so hopefully it doesn’t cause you to have a negative opinion of me.

But through all of this I learned: Adversity Breeds Awesomeness

And Compassion.

And I figured that was a lesson worth sharing.

**My cousin coined this phrase. We use it often, and we claim rights. 😉 We’ll probably make T-shirts.

***Oh, and please no mean-spirited comments. The post I applied to my Facebook page also applies to this blog.

4 responses to “Adversity Breeds Awesomeness

  1. A few months ago, I also deactivited my Facebook account; I have gotten upset with my family, something concerning my disability too. I ended going back too, I started thinking of all my other friends that are worth keeping in touch with. It doesn’t matter if it’s friends or family, they will never understand what we go through as disabled individuals. The best we can do is cling to the love ones who support us 100% or try to, and God.

    • It’s really sad, because it’s all of the people that don’t have to go through this stuff that are ridiculing us. How could they possibly know? Thank you for sharing, it’s nice to know I’m not alone in this situation.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment about having no qualms about government assistance for those unable to work. Here in the UK we are in the middle of brutal welfare reforms that are causing untold harm to many genuinely disabled people. The media is full of references to ‘skivers’ not ‘strivers’.

    I have many disabled friends, all of whom would choose to work if we were able. We all struggle with feelings of inadequacy for relying on the state. Disabled friends who ARE capable of work find no one will employ them. Like many, I continued to work long after it was medically advisable and paid very heavily for it. I am all for the government clamping down on benefit fraud but people who truly cannot work should not be penalised, stigmatised or forced to live in poverty.

    • That is so sad. People that take advantage of programs like that make it really hard for the people that actually need them.
      That is exactly right. I would work if I could; I rocked at my job and I was really depressed about leaving for a long time, but I’m not going to put myself in harm everyday over a job. And it’s been amazing – I still have a hard time in the mornings, and I still can’t walk very far or get ready and get out of the house before noon, but I don’t have days where I completely can’t walk anymore, & I am able to (mostly) take care of my kids, instead of lying in bed all day.
      It is hard to get hired if you’re disabled. I’ve been denied jobs and denied reasonable accommodations because of my disability (during my short employment at a gas station, I asked if I could sit at a stool instead of standing behind a counter all day. I was, again, called lazy). Looking back, I could have taken legal action. Maybe I should have.
      Situations like these are why I feel so strongly about not judging other people. We can never truly know what another person is going through.

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