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Superwoman: What Makes A Disabled Woman Become One?

Recently, a family member said to my parents that I was a real-life superwoman. When my mom told me about this, I was utterly confused as to why and what made me a real-life superwoman. Naturally, I asked my mom to clarify the meaning behind this sentiment. She said that having a son and managing to care for him independently without much help despite all my problems was what made me a real-life superwoman.

Going back to my previous post, I never saw myself as ‘the disabled one’, though the rest of the world did. When I was at home, I’d be as normal as any other able-bodied person. I’d just need a little extra help here and there. As soon as I got out the door, I was ‘the disabled one’. And it didn’t make a difference whether I was a child, a teenager, or an adult. No matter where I went, I was ‘the disabled one’. It was frustrating. That’s why I always aimed to spend my time, friends in particular, who treated me as an equal rather than their disabled friend that they needed to save. I had one friend who contentiously asked me if I needed help doing such tasks as putting on a lip-gloss. By the third time of her asking, I snapped and told her the friendship was over.

There were, of course, numerous times where I broke my own rules. It was especially true when I was at my worst in my chronic illness journey. During that period, I became friends with someone who gradually showed their toxicity, both through actions and words, and I was too sick to do anything about it. Other people I was surrounded with kept telling me to ‘just deal with it’, so I did, mainly because I was too tired to argue. . When we were friends, she had no issues telling me how I should or shouldn’t live my life; from my marriage to my disability and the then-newly diagnosed chronic illness. Not to mention that she was a racist. A few months into our friendship, the person in question tells I’m not Israeli because, according to them, I don’t act like one.

There were so many instances where I should’ve stood up for myself and ended the friendship. But I never did. Not because I didn’t want to, but because epilepsy took over the person that I was and made me into this puppet that just took the abuse and disrespect. What made me open my eyes was when we were all at a birthday party. I started having seizures in the middle of our dinner because I ate something I wasn’t supposed to. I felt like I was about to die in that moment as I had trouble breathing and felt like I was going to fall on my face. The day after the birthday, there were significant signs that the people I was with at the birthday were mad at me.

I found out sometime later that they were offended because, according to them, I made things weird for them by having the seizures. I don’t think I ever had a friendship end because of something so stupid other than someone being offended that they didn’t get my invitation to a gathering I planned out that was cancelled because I started having severe seizure attacks throughout the day without stopping. In turn, the person in question called me a drama queen and stopped talking to me. A few years after the birthday where I allegedly made things weird due to me having seizures in public, I saw that offended former friend of mine at a mutual friend’s birthday party. To my dismay, the person sat right in front of me and tried to start a conversation with me as soon as we sat down as if nothing happened and I wasn’t treated like sh*t by this person for the 4 years that we were friends.

It was then that I realized the entire 4 years that we were friends were wasted on that person. I would’ve never even layer eyes on someone like remotely like that if I were healthy during the time that I met them. This person only knew the ill version of me and loved the fact that they could just abuse me without having any consequences. They knew me as ‘the disabled one’ and treated me as that. This person defined me by my disability and illness. The minute I set boundaries, they left. They practically left me for dead that night at the birthday party where I offended them, and if my husband wasn’t there to help, who knows what would’ve happened….

Seeing the people from my past was good for me and my sanity. It made me understand how far I’ve come following that toughest years of my life, which coincidentally, were the years I was friends with the offended person. Those years were a big portion of my life and they had great effect on me, but they don’t define me anymore and that former friend doesn’t matter anymore. It was when I saw this person years later that I knew that I deserved much better than them. Because of what had happened with that person, I had trouble trusting anyone new that I’d met. I hesitated telling anyone about my disabilities, as well as about this blog. When someone would ask me what I did professionally, I’d just tell them I’m a writer and that I had a blog. But I wouldn’t tell them the full story of the blog, because that would mean I’d have to tell them the background of my life. I just wasn’t ready to trust others again the way I trusted my former friend. And that hurt my business. If I don’t open up about myself truly and authentically, how could I ever successfully promote my business and what the entire blog is all about?

It was only recently that I started to change my perspectives. I as at a party that my newly found friends invited me, along with my husband and my son, to. I didn’t know anyone at the party, with the exception of the two that invited me, of course. It’s always an intimidating experience for me, as an introvert, to go to any gathering where I don’t know anyone. That particular party was no different. I was so anxious about going to the party that I begged my husband last minute for us to stay home. He didn’t oblige to any of my made up excuses not to go to the party, and I’m so happy he didn’t. It ended up being exactly what I needed and more.

Somehow, at one point during the party, our conversation led to in-laws and our relationships with them. My friend who invited me to the party started the conversation by giving and the other few people who joined in to listen an insight to her life with her husband and his parents. She said that her in-laws that, after living with them in their house for several years, they suddenly decided that they didn’t like her because they assumed she was after their money (he comes from a well-off family. Another person then said he didn’t understand how in-laws can not accept the person their son or daughter chose to spend their life with, and that the main question is ‘WHY?’. He just heard one reason, which was my friend’s, and he wanted to know more…

So I gave him another perspective. My father-in-law practically hates me because his son has built his life with a woman, he doesn’t even see me as that, who’s disabled. Just as I mentioned that I have cerebral palsy, another one of the newbies I met came up from across the room and said with a confused look on his face, ‘Where? I know what palsy is and you’re not it.’ I was so stunned by his sentiment. I wasn’t used to anyone seeing me for me first. It was so refreshing. It made me believe in humanity again. The more I said about everything my father-in-law has said about me based on his assumptions and what he read on cerebral palsy, the more shocked he looked. I couldn’t help but smile. It was at that moment that I believed I completely moved on from the time of my life where my illness took over me and made me into someone I didn’t even recognize.

All my life, I saw myself as an able-bodied person. You can read more about it in my previous post and all other posts that were written by me on this blog. Me aiming to live the life of an able-bodied person is, after all, the entire premise of The Graceful Boon, and it was finally that evening, at the party that I initially didn’t want to go to, that I saw someone see that in me after so many years of attracting the wrong people. And going back to the beginning of this blog post, that’s not to say that my family members who said I was a superwoman for having a child and taking care of him on my own despite all my problems see me as disabled. Having a child and taking care of the child all on her own is hard even for an able-bodied woman, let alone a disabled woman.

Having a family of my own was always something I wanted to do. I didn’t have my son on a whim. If that were to be true, I would’ve had a child more than a decade ago. I did a lot of preparation and planning to get to that place. I had a lot of time to prepare myself for motherhood; more than I time that I would’ve liked. No matter the case, I’m glad I had my son exactly when I did; and not a moment sooner. It was a never a thought for me that I couldn’t have a child because of my cerebral palsy or even epilepsy. Epilepsy certainly derailed my plans of having a child, but it didn’t ever impact my decision or my ability to have a child of my own.

My son had already is a survivor and already proved how strong he really. He went through so much before he was even born. He survived a car accident and his mother suffering two grand-mal seizures, which could’ve affected him in a big way. He could’ve died in the womb, but he didn’t. He was thriving all the way through my pregnancy and came out happy and healthy. In the 16 months that he’s been here with me, And I continued taking care of my son even when my health wasn’t on my side and I didn’t have any help available. I’ve taken care of my son while suffering focal seizures throughout the day. I’ve taken care of my son following me suffering grand-mal seizures and having to go through the after-effects of those seizures. And I’ve taken care of him even with the physical difficulties I’ve faced due to me having cerebral palsy from the very moment I came out of the hospital with him. I clothe him, I feed him, I bathe him, I change his diapers, I hold him, I play with him; you name it. I do it all. And I’ve done it all through my struggles and tribulations as a woman who has a physical disability and a chronic illness.

I guess, now that I myself am reflecting on my life as a new mother, I AM a f*cking superwoman. I realize how much I’ve underestimated myself from the very moment I found out I was pregnant. Yes, I see myself as an able-bodied woman. But that doesn’t even matter. It’s hard enough to be a new mother, even as an able-bodied woman. Some women don’t survive new motherhood. I’m so sad to say that someone I used to be so close with that she was practically family, didn’t survive new motherhood (You’ll find more about her in my previous blog posts). I never saw my superpower because I didn’t have anyone at home cheering me on and ever telling me that I was doing a good job. That’s not to say that my husband is this terrible person. He’s not. He’s the best father to my son, and my son adores him. Every time I attempted to open up to him, during that first year of my struggles and my needs of him to make it easier on me, he’d shrug his shoulders, laugh it off and tell me motherhood was just what I signed up for and I needed to deal with it.

My husband said that it was that he saw me as an able-bodied woman, just like our friends’ friend at the party we met recently that said he knew what palsy was and I wasn’t it, and unlike the former friend of mine that was offended by me because I had seizures at a birthday and made things weird for everyone, and that was why he didn’t see a point in being a cheerleader. I didn’t ask for much. I just asked for some reassurance from time to time, and I couldn’t even get that out of him. It was only when we heard the news of my (former) friend being charged with first-degree murder for the death of her son that he realized how wrong he was and how much he needed to step up. And it was only after that that he sincerely apologized and changed his ways for the better.

Becoming a mother was the toughest, and yet the most liberating experience of my entire life. It made me realize just how strong of a woman I really am. My family was right. I AM a superwoman, and I couldn’t be more proud to be one. I just hope my son will be proud of me too. I didn’t just become a superwoman when I became a mother. I’ve always been a superwoman. It just took me to become a mother to realize that. The fact that I live the life that I do and achieving all that I’ve achieved in my life in spite of my physical disability and chronic illness IS what makes me a superwoman. Being a mother to my son is a part of it.

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