How disabilities shaped my life

By maternal lottery, I was born into a family with a disability. My dad, specifically. He had complications from Type 1 diabetes and went blind just after I turned 4. Since I didn’t know any differently, I didn’t know how to react when my school friends came home and asked in hushed whispers “What’s wrong with your dad?” My reaction? He’s blind – so what? So he’s missing part of his leg – so what?

People in general continued to be amazed at what my dad was able to accomplish. The local newspaper even came out and did a story on him when he re-roofed our house after the August 1st flood in Cheyenne. We built a garage on the back of our house and I helped him put siding on it. We built a greenhouse. But this was normal to me. I’d shrug my shoulders at people’s reactions and think “big deal.”

When I left home to get married the first time (huge mistake) and go to college, I kind of left that all behind. Until the morning my car got hit by a semi car-carrier (unloaded, or I wouldn’t be here.) By the grace of God and a guardian angel, I walked away with a sprained ankle and a concussion. Lying on a gurney waiting to get my ankle x-rayed to see if it was broken, I noticed the sign above the sink admonishing the workers to wash their hands. Panic overtook me when I couldn’t read the sign. My brain had been knocked against my skull in three different directions and I was in bad shape.

If the people at the hospital warned me that a bad concussion comes with nausea and vomiting, I didn’t remember it. My then mother in law drove my ex and I back to the trailer where we lived and I didn’t recognize it. But thank God I knew where the bathroom was, because I was puking my guts out the rest of the day. Recovery seemed terribly slow. The ability to read came back almost right away (!), but I had trouble speaking for a while and left-brained activities were so difficult that I had to drop math and chemistry that semester because I couldn’t comprehend the material. After about a year, I finally felt like I’d gotten back to my old self. which was great – for a while.

After my graduation and divorce (one day apart), I moved to Loveland, CO to live with my mom and stepdad and a couple of years later met the man to whom I’m still married today – Troy. He waited a couple of weeks before admitting to me that he was a diabetic. He’d heard my stories about my dad and was worried that I wouldn’t want to get serious with someone who might turn out like he had. The difference? My father grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when diabetes treatment was relatively poor, and thus suffered complications. Troy wasn’t diagnosed until after he’d left the Army in his mid-twenties and he took care of it. So, once again I shrugged. Big deal.

Then I became a gestational diabetic with our oldest son and found out just how much being a diabetic sucks. I didn’t have to take shots or anything and it resolved as soon as Parker was born, so once again – big deal.

Then Parker was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes just before he turned three and with autism about six months later. Disability again ruled my life, but because of my background I was able to take it in stride. God gave me Parker because he knew I could handle it. Though at times I still felt like He had made a mistake.

Then my second son came along and was re-assuredly normal. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least there was only one child’s medical issues to deal with. Until he hit fifth grade. Nothing like your son walking into the dining room with a knife to his throat and threatening to kill himself to wake you up in the morning. After some more suicide threats and a stay in the psych ward, we discovered that Jeremy was also on the spectrum, just higher functioning than his brother. We’d had no way to gauge what was normal because of Parker and we’d missed it.

Okay, swallow that, get that under my belt and back to somewhat normal. Then I began to have issues. First came the fatigue and the aches I couldn’t explain. After a few years of searching for an answer, at 40, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It explained a lot, but that was about it. After about a year of misery, I found the Fibromyalgia Center in Lafayette who had a program to help people like me. It’s a 50 minute drive each way, but it’s worth it.

I thought I had it under control. They helped me with the worst of the pain and work was flexible about things like ad hoc telework, so I was getting on with things. Until last July.

I’d been having trouble concentrating for some time, but had always managed to keep all the balls in the air and nobody noticed. Until the end of July when it got worse. I’d leave tasks half-finished and re-discover them later. I’d start a task I’d been doing for years and forget to do half of it. I couldn’t prioritize and just did whatever it occurred to me to do in the moment. When I wasn’t having blank moments where I couldn’t think at all. My juggling failed. My work suffered and I had to come to terms with the bitter truth. I couldn’t do my job anymore. Since my supervisor recognized that my problems weren’t due to my not being willing to work, she suggested a disability retirement which happened last December.

So here I am. I can still write. I trust in God to provide. We’ll see what happens.

One response to “How disabilities shaped my life”

  1. I love your practical attitude about disabilities: “So what?” And that’s bound to make life better for your sons, since — in my opinion as a Type 1 since age 3 — being the MOM of a diabetic is the hardest job there is. (Or maybe it’s tied with being the mom of someone on the spectrum.)

    Anyway, your strength through all these ups & downs is uplifting…you’re an inspiration!


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