It is a hard thing to grasp: being disabled.
It’s especially hard when my “disability” has really only affected me for TWO HOURS AND SEVEN MINUTES of my entire existence. (If my math is correct, that’s only 0.00075% of my life.) The rest of the time, I’ve been pretty much fine.
But I carry that label. I am disabled. I am protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Which, I should add, I am grateful for—I’ve needed its protections.) I even went on disability leave for a few months last school year, due to complications from a concussion and neck injury I suffered while seizing and the fact that I legally could not drive for three months following the incident, as per state law.
In spite of these things, though, I’ve never really thought of my disability as all thatdisabling. It has made some things harder, true, but the only thing it’s really kept me from doing is…well, driving.
I abided by the law after every seizure: no driving for three months. Even though I felt fine, even though I (mistakenly) thought that law was completely ridiculous, I didn’t drive. I used to count down the days/hours/minutes/seconds until I could drive again, until I could enjoy the sweet, sweet freedom of going wherever I want, whenever I want.
I’m not counting down the seconds to that freedom this time. Not minutes, not hours. Not even the days. That three-month restriction no longer seems so ridiculous. I get it now.
Honestly, I’m not entirely sure I ever want to drive again.
Epilepsy is such an unpredictable disease—it can strike whenever. Even while driving. (Which, by the way, was the scariest effing thing that has ever happened to me…) Sure, I was fated to live/rescued by angels/given a miracle/just plain lucky, but next time…well, I don’t ever want there to be a next time. I don’t want to think about how things might have ended differently, how I might have been hurt or killed, or worse—how I might have hurt or killed someone else, without even knowing it until I shook out of my post-epileptic fog and realized the horrors I had caused.
So now I’m at a crossroads. (Hmmm. No pun intended, but it is a rather fitting metaphor.)
To drive or not to drive—that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler to take the risk and drive myself, or to play it safe and rely on others for all eternity. (Sorry, that was a bit dramatic—my apologies to Shakespeare.) Sure, I could get back in my Honda after these three months pass, but now that I know what could happen, my epilepsy feels like an alcohol buzz: I know I probably shouldn’t get in that car. I know the risk.
Basically, I’m either an accident waiting to happen or a burden on others. I don’t like either one of those options.
To me, this is what has been truly disabling.
I live in the middle of nowhere and I love it—it is gorgeous and quiet and free. But part of what I love about it is that it’s an escapefrom my hectic life. If I am confined to this house, if I choose to never drive again, I fear it will become more prison than escape.
Then again, writing is literally the only career I’ve ever truly wanted. And writing is a lonely job. It requires isolation. I entertained the possibility of other professions, but they were merely fads: surgeon, punk band manager, lawyer, opera singer—heck, eventeacher, to be perfectly frank, even though I’m teaching now and I love it most days. But ever since I learned what a book was, I longed to write one. That desire has never left me.
Maybe this potential isolation is a gift. Maybe it’s a chance for me to invest in my passions without distractions. Maybe it’s a chance for me to learn patience. (I’ll admit, that’s a lesson I could use….) Maybe it’s a chance for me to get to know those who are kind enough to cart me around and to cultivate those friendships. Maybe it’s a chance to turn my loneliness into my dream.
Two roads diverge in this wood, and I—I’m not sure which I’ll travel by.
This choice could make all the difference.
(Apologies, Robert Frost.)