I've often been told that I shouldn't think of myself as being disabled, that I shouldn't describe myself as a “wheelchair user,” or even that I'm not really disabled. I have great respect and love for some of the people who've told me these things, but I think they're wrong.
Before I go into the reasons why, I just want to say that this is only my view of my disability, and that I wouldn't dream of prescribing to others how they should define themselves.
When my fiancé James and I met, in our first year of university, I wasn't disabled. I had a history of intermittent joint problems throughout my childhood, but most of the time I'd be off going for walks, dancing or climbing trees. It wasn't until our third year that I started getting real problems — I had severe pain in my wrists and ankles, and on bad days could barely cross a room without wanting to scream. In the end, I was faced with a choice: use a wheelchair or become housebound. I chose the former of the two, though to a surprising amount of resistance from some.
Over the next year or two, my condition continued to worsen. Thankfully, James was never anything less than supportive, and has helped look after me through some really rough patches.
Skip forwards a few years and I'm now in a really good place. I'm engaged to my best friend. I've managed to find a balance of medications, supplements, diet, and routine that keeps me functioning. I completed my degree and am now working full-time as a design engineer. In my spare time I help run a Brownie and a Cub Pack, and go folk dancing when I can.
I'm going to decorate up my wheelchair, roll down the aisle and enjoy every last-minute of the day!
You may be wondering why, after going through all of the above, I'm proud to describe myself as disabled. The thing is, that I wouldn't be the person I am now, with the amazingly loving relationship my fiancé and I have, if we hadn't been through all that together. Yes, the Fibromyalgia is not a barrel of laughs; yes, I sometimes have a little personal pity party; but I love the person I am and the life I have today.
So, I've decided that I am not going to try to hide my disability at our wedding, though some might privately feel that I ought to. I'm not going to struggle down the aisle on my crutches, wishing for it to all be over so I can sit down. I'm not going to take so much Codeine that I don't remember my own wedding day.
Instead, I'm going to decorate up my wheelchair, roll down the aisle and enjoy every last-minute of the day! Our cake toppers are going to have my mini-me in a wheelchair, and I'm going to dance all but the first dance on wheels (for dancing the Rosa with my new husband, I can stand for a few minutes).