Don’t hide who you are
I wish someone had told me as a child that it was okay to be different, that there is no need to hide your difficulties, and most importantly to be your true self. Instead I heard, saw, and experienced the exact opposite from those around me, you have to fit in, if you stand out you get teased, you miss out on opportunities, you are treated differently. Due to this I learnt pretty quickly to hide my disability, and in doing so I was hiding my true self from those around me.
By hiding my difficulties I felt protected from discrimination, from being treated differently, it allowed me to feel a sense of acceptance. I now realise that this was not true acceptance as I wasn’t being my true self. But I felt safe, life was harder, no one really knew me, and because of that I never got to really know anyone else, as they sensed I was hiding something, I never really developed a trusting relationship with those who didn’t know the true me, though I was liked, and included there was always a sense of something missing.
Now a few decades on, I have realised that by hiding my difficulties, my disability and my true self I have missed out on so much. I have met some extraordinary people throughout my life, but because I wasn’t able to be completely open and honest with them those relationships didn’t last. I have missed out on opportunities as I found them too difficult to do without support. I have travelled along a difficult road as most of us do and have become stronger and wiser for it.
Now a new journey has begun for me, to break down the walls that I built as a child to hide my difficulties, my disability and myself from others. I have now learnt that the braver, more open and honest you are about who you are, and the difficulties you experience, the more understanding that there is within your relationships and the community as a whole, and the better we all become as a result of this. We as people with disabilities each have the power to make a difference to the lives of those around us.