I’m Elin, a 19-year-old beauty and fashion enthusiast, a person who loves music and going to concerts, a girl who lives in the countryside and loves going for walks, a student who has an aptitude for writing and aspires to pursue a career in the journalism/social media industry. I just happen to live with a disability and this is often the first thing people see, what people normally judge me for and it got me thinking, how much of a role does my disability play in terms of my identity and who I am?
I’m not often recognised for all the things i listed above, many recognise me as the girl who walks around with a long cane, the girl who wears glasses, the girl who can’t see.
I’ve been thinking recently about why this is, why does my disability have to be the thing that defines me in so many people’s eyes? When I’ve met some new people in the past, they’ve asked me questions such as; “So, how long have you been visually impaired?”, “Have you been visually impaired since birth?”, “How much can you actually see?”, “Do you always use a long cane?”. I understand that people are curious and are wanting to learn and I don’t have a problem with that, I’m always happy to answer any questions people might have, within reason of course. But, I was wondering, why is my disability often the most common topic within a conversation? Why do people not ask about me, who I am, what my hobbies are? My life is so much more than my disability and I don’t think that it’s something that everyone realises.
My disability is a part of me, it has been since my parents realised I couldn’t see in the dark when I was three years old and from that point, I’ve had a number of visits to the hospital, hundreds of tests to see how Retinitis Pigmentosa affects the way I see the world and that registration at the age of twelve which labelled me blind.
I’ve stumbled upon (quite literally sometimes) many people in my life who have chosen to treat me differently because of my sight loss, they probably have their reasons for that and I can’t blame anyone for it because vision impairment isn’t something that everyone will come across in their day-to-day lives. But, the fact that these people see me as ‘different’ forced me in a way to make them realise that my disability doesn’t define me and that I am so much more than my disability. Whilst that’s true, when truly thinking about it, I realised that it does define me in many ways but not in a negative way.
I’m reminded that I live with a disability every morning when I wake up, when I’m met with a blurred canvas that prevents me from seeing hardly anything every time I open my eyes, but I don’t sit and wallow over this. Instead, I get up and get on with my day because it’s what I’m used to and it’s what I want to do.
Living with sight loss has brought a number of challenges into my life, there are constant hurdles and barriers that need to be overcome but facing them has meant that my disability has given me strength, courage, positivity and a number of little quirks that make me who I am. All those things are a part of my identity and that makes my disability a part of it too, I’m ok with that and I choose to embrace it as best as I can.
Many aspects of my life would probably be very different if I wasn’t visually impaired but who knows how different it actually could have been. Although I do sometimes wonder about how different my life would be if I didn’t live with sight loss, I’ve learned to accept my disability and all the things that come along with it, including those little quirks it gives me that play a part in building up my identity.
I will always say that I don’t want to be recognised as the disabled young woman, not straight off the bat anyway. My vision impairment is a long way down the list of things that I would label myself as, NOTE, it’s still on that list because I have no shame in talking about it, embracing it an raising awareness of it.
So what is my identity? Well, I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger, a student, someone who can come across as being quite shy but a girl who has a lot to say and can have a good laugh once you get to know me. But, I am also disabled and I want to use that to my advantage, to raise awareness, to spread positivity and most importantly to hopefully help others who might be in a similar situation.
All of the above are a part of my identity, they make me who I am and I’m proud of that.
What makes up your identity? Do you also live with a disability? Do you see it as something that defines you, something that’s a part of your identity and who you are? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.