You are more than a label – you are more than just disabled

G’day, friends, and welcome to another week and another blog!!

I was having coffee with an old colleague this week, and we talked about identity and feeling stuck in life.

I feel so many of us are stuck, feeling like our identity is just one thing or, worse yet, we don’t know who we are or what we stand for. For example, so many people with disability will identify themselves as their disability and will often lead introductions with ‘Hi, my name is… I am disabled..’

I am a firm believer in the idea of societal boxes. Society has all these little boxes that we should all fit into, but we must fit in a select number but not all simultaneously; otherwise, you are breaking out of the mould too much. In other words, you can’t be controlled by those around you or society.

At times in my life, I often felt like the only thing I was was disabled and that becoming something more like a businesswoman, athlete, wife, mother, or even simply just a human being without any labels was not something I could aspire to. I saw people like me being told that getting married, starting a business or merely doing what made them happy wasn’t ideal.

Seeing that kept me stuck in a loop for years and leading, introducing myself, ‘My name is Rhiannon, I have muscular dystrophy…’. I identified with my disability; my disability was who I was.

Everything I did, my disability was always at the forefront of my mind. Anything I couldn’t do or even could do, my disability was always front and centre. Sure, there are some things in life where my disability and my health will have to come first, above all, which also means there will be things that I cannot do because I physically can’t. And that is the reality, which I am completely fine with.

But there are also some things that my disability doesn’t need to be at the forefront of anymore, like completely controlling me and my life.

But getting to that point was unsettling and nerve-wracking because once I started to break through feeling caged by my disability, that’s when shaping my identity truly started to happen.

The first time I started to break through was my staycation a couple of years ago when I stayed in an apartment by myself for the very first time. I never thought that was something I could do simply because I thought my disability wouldn’t allow me to do it. But I needed to do something drastic due to other reasons.

The first morning of that staycation, I cried for a few hours. Why? The barrier that my disability mentally and physically created was gone, and I had to figure out what I wanted to do with all this ‘freedom’. But I couldn’t. It was like I was frozen out on my balcony. The reason? I didn’t know who I was a) without my family as my co-dependency was through the roof) and b) because I didn’t know who I was as someone who felt free to do what they wanted.

That’s when I realised that my identity and who I was was my disability. It was what everyone around me focused on, what society concentrated on, and, therefore, what I focused on. There was also that little thing of still feeling like a kid, but I have already spoken about the inner child thing.

I spent till the late hours that night journalling out all my thoughts and feelings and came to the realisation I needed to stop overthinking and start getting curious about ‘the outside world’ so to speak and have a go at doing things I didn’t know was possible to be able to find who I was that didn’t relate to my disability.

I signed up for horse riding lessons, I signed up for a 5km, I promised myself I would do my honours year of my Law Degree, and I promised myself that I would continue to push myself to try new things continuously, have conversations and stick to my values.. once I found those.

I realise there were many physical things on that list, but I wanted to do all that because I no longer wanted to be afraid of the physical aspect of life. I needed to prove to myself that even if my disability made it challenging or I had to modify it, I could still do it. My disability doesn’t rule me anymore, and I am more than just my disability and am capable of more than what I think.

All of this gave me the mental strength to know that I can do so much more; I must be willing to chase after it. The strength also translated to backing myself in when I needed to instead of being treated in a way I didn’t like and being unapologetic in my values and what I stood for.

I finally started to see who I was outside of my disability, which eventually, over time, my introduction changed; how I view myself or identify with myself and mentioning my disability is one of the last things I say now.

It’s not that I hate my disability. Because I don’t hate it. I have just learnt that there is so much more to me than ‘just’—more than just my disability and more than a label put on me.

So, I’d like to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Rhi; I am 24, and I am a born and bred Australian woman, a daughter, sister, grand-daughter, niece, horsey girl, competitive, kind, loving, protective, stubborn, proud ally, AFL fanatic, Businesswoman, Law Graduate, who stands for treating every human with compassion, kindness, and understanding regardless of sexual orientation, gender, ability, religion, or race. Oh, and I am disabled.

Till next week,


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