Monday, October 22, 2012

MEMO TO MEN: On (more) disability myths

TO: Men all over the planet
FROM: Melissa
RE: Myth busters
DATE: October 22, 2012
We've discussed disability myths before, boys, but I've always been a big fan of the idea that you can never review life lessons too much. A couple years ago, I shared five myths about life with a disability on Glamour's Vitamin G blog, but since Glamour probably isn't one of your most-frequented sites, I thought I'd share it again. Because the truth? Some stereotypes are still circulating like a pesky tabloid rumor. The five most common, in my personal experience...

We all want sympathy
I was born with Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a genetic bone and muscular disorder. I’ve had more than 25 surgeries, mostly to correct joint and muscle contractures, and I’ve seen the white walls and slept in more beds of a hospital far more times than I have the Hilton. But I don’t sit around bemoaning my fate. And I certainly don’t seek out sympathy every chance I get. I always tell people who ask (I don’t bring my disability up in everyday conversation unless someone asks, either) that because I was born with a physical disability, I honestly don’t know any different. It’s sort of the idea that you can’t really miss what you’ve never had. To me, this life -- my life -- is normal.

We don't work
I graduated college with a degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University in 2005. While in college, I worked on my campus newspaper as a copy editor and reporter, where I discovered my true passion for writing and journalism. For the last four years, I worked as an adviser for a community college newspaper, and this fall, I'm beyond excited to be taking So About What I Said full-time.

Physically disabled means mentally disabled
I used to get this one a lot when I was a child, and back then, I just didn’t understand it. In fact, I still don’t. Whenever we’d be out in public, people would ask my parents questions about me when I was right there as if I couldn’t speak for myself. It was frustrating, but I suppose people saw my wheelchair and probably assumed my mind was impaired too. They soon learned otherwise when I opened my mouth!

We're not independent
When I was in first grade, I got my first electric wheelchair. As the story goes, I just kept saying “Thank you” to my parents because I could finally enjoy the childhood independence that I saw my peers experiencing. And now as an adult, besides needing assistance with bathing and getting dressed, I’m actually a pretty low-maintenance woman. Although I can’t drive, I can take the bus to and from work, to the grocery store and doctors appointments by myself. It’s a sense of freedom I’ve never taken for granted.

We don't want/need to have romantic relationships
I love exploring this topic to try to dispel the stereotype that women with disabilities are vastly different from the majority of women. When it comes to love and romance, I have the same desires, hopes and dreams that most people do. After my father died in 2003, I remember looking back on my parents’ marriage and thinking, “That is the kind of love I want someday. The deep and unconditional kind.” My disability hasn’t changed that. It hasn’t made me any less of a woman, and I think people (especially guys) tend to forget that sometimes.
The bottom line, boys: I am not a disabled person. I'm a person with a disability. There's a massive difference in the seemingly subtle change between these two sentences. For a long time, especially when I was younger, I yearned to just be "normal." But not so much anymore. In fact, not at all. I look at all my surgical scars now and see them not so much as a reminder of a painful past, but of how far I've come, and of all the strength each one of those scars has given me. Besides, we all have scars, whether they're visible to the eye or not. Me? I’d rather stand out than blend in with the crowd. Wouldn't you, boys?

[Bottom photo via Le Love]


  1. Well said, Melissa! I hope you find the man who will love you unconditionally.

  2. great post melissa! well said.

  3. Beautiful Melissa! The man who gets to be with you will be one lucky guy :) xoxo

  4. Definitely well put, Melissa. You are very inspirational my dear.

  5. I read that article before and i enjoyed it ,and now i read it again and enjoyed it even more
    i really admire your courage :)

  6. Beautifully stated Melissa! You are an inspiration my dear and your guy will be lucky to be with you, lovely lady!

    Chic 'n Cheap Living

  7. Yay!!!!!!! :) Beautiful, Melissa!!!!! You are awesome, and I know that you will find true love and will be very happy with him. Muah!

  8. wonderful post. kudos! :) you are an inspiration to me.

  9. Your line about being a person with a disability, not a disabled person was spot on. So well said. Beautifully written as always Melissa! :)

  10. Great post, Melissa. Thank you so much for telling it like it is and dispelling these 'myths' that continue to lurk in the minds of small-minded people.

    you go girl!!

  11. Hi Melissa, visiting your blog for the first time, thanks for the comment on mine :) I think you are just wonderful. You are rockin You, being You and embracing everything about You, which makes you so very special and unique in this world. Thanks for being an inspiration.


  12. To clear things up: I've answered a lot of these questions before -- several times -- so when I see them continually being asked, I feel like it doesn't add anything to the conversation.

    I've always wanted this blog to provide a real, honest and genuine glimpse into my life. Does this help? xoxo

  13. Then why did you delete those comments? Right now no one knows what you're referring to.

  14. Anon -- I'm pretty sure people saw the comments. One of my goals with this blog has always been to keep it an upbeat, positive place.

  15. Melissa,

    Asking questions, even if they aren't with a bunch of exclamation points and hearts next to them, doesn't make them negative. Isn't that what you do yourself, throughout the blog? Question things, stereotypes, reasons for doing this or that? As I mentioned in the comment you deleted of mine, you are free to answer what you want, but deleting them is unnecessary.


  16. Melissa, I saw some of the comments. What in heaven's name are you so afraid of?? They weren't offensive. The commentor asked an honest question. How does one make enough money to support themselves by blogging? I'm sure you would be doing a huge favor to others by explaining how they, too, could leave their jobs and survive by blogging. Or is it that you can do this BECAUSE you live in your mom's house, are on her insurance, and she feeds, bathes and dresses you, pays the property taxes and utilities. This is not meant to be offensive, but because these are tough and honest questions, I doubt that you can attempt to answer. You can't hide behind your disability forever!

  17. "your own kind." What the hell is that?!? Melissa's "KIND" is human, just like every other person on this planet. She can date anyone she wants if they both have feelings for each other. What a ridiculous thing to say.


  18. Anons -- as I've said before, I've seen some condescending and down-right mean-spirited questions in the comments here, and those are questions I refuse to answer. Not because I can't -- believe me, I could -- but because that's not what my blog is about. I want to keep this place positive and uplifting.

    As for the other questions, they keep coming up over and over, even though I have answered them time and time again. I don't know if people are looking for a different answer or what, but I don't see the need in answering them for the millionth time. That's why I'm inclined to delete them.

    But rest assured of a few things (and I hope this answers some of your questions)...

    1. I receive some disability in addition to my income through blogging.

    2. Yes, I live WITH my mom -- not IN her house. I contribute to the property taxes and utilities, we split grocery money.

    3. My mom doesn't feed me -- she helped prepare my food, only because our kitchen isn't handicapped accessible. Yes, she doesn't help bathe and dress me, but I would need someone's help with this even if I lived on my own. It's a little hard to wash your feet when your spine is fused... :)

    As for hiding behind my disability, that's about the last thing I can do. It's sort of's not something you can miss. Does this help answer some of your questions?

  19. Well said, Melissa- all of it - the post as well as your replies to ignorant comments. Thank you for keeping things up beat. :)

  20. I really like your blog and I think you're doing a great job!! xoxo

  21. Not at disabilities are the same. Some people aren't able to be independent, depending on the disability. It's wonderful that you are able to be.


Your lovely comments make my day so much sweeter! Thanks for stopping by and saying hello!


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