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Disability Journey: through Mom’s eyes

While I was working on my autobiography about my life (still a work in progress), Mom contributed the following chapter for it; Enjoy. 
” South Louisiana knows how to eat, drink & party.  Life was pretty easy for me growing up. I did my share of partying in my teen years.  Life should be a party, but we’re not always the guest of honor. Sometimes we must take our places in the back of the room. Jamie taught me that life is not fair and we are not perfect. I felt guilty and still do sometimes that my daughter has to suffer so much, to teach me and others about important things in life. 

During Jamie’s 1st year of life, words were spoken to me by a doctor that have haunted me to this day. He told me that he could just look at her and see that she wasn’t normal. I am thankful for these words, though, because they opened my eyes. We have all been created to be different, but we are normal. What we are is what God intended us to be, therefore, it’s our normal.

Jamie has such a strong personality with the ability to win hearts, but unfortunately, trying to fit in has made her heart somewhat hard. I always wanted her to be tough. As a female, I knew she would have to be strong; being female with a disability, she needed to be extremely tough. I never wanted her dependent on anyone. She learned well, she hates to ask for help. She hasn’t learned to balance her strong personality and independence with her ability to teach people as well as she has taught me.

A lady that had a hurt back shared with me what Jamie did for her life. During the time Jamie was in swim therapy, this lady was also receiving therapy, but she was having a tough time adjusting to her injury. She was angry, in pain, and feeling sorry for herself. Then comes Jamie, this little ray of sunshine with a smile that would light up a room. It was because of Jamie’s disability she found the courage to not give up. As the saying goes, “She put on her big girl panties and told herself, if this little girl can have such strength to deal with her pain, shame on me for the self-pity.”

She had such an outgoing personality when she was young. Ronald & I brought Jamie to a wedding for a pool playing friend of his. Ronald knew the bride, groom and a few of other people. I knew the bride & groom. Jamie didn’t know anyone. She worked the room like a politician running for office, going from table to table at the reception. By the time we left, almost everyone in the room knew her name. How does society take you from the point of being a social butterfly to the state of almost wrapping yourself in a cocoon? I hope one day, I can see the self-confidence she once possessed shine through again.

Jamie started preschool at 3 years old. She still often tells her preschool teacher, she would like to go back to that time in her life. She was so happy; rarely did she complain about pain. She was in preschool for 2 years. The coordinator wanted her to stay for another year. Ronald and I decided she needed to be pushed through to kindergarten.

She adjusted well with a fantastic teacher. At the end of the school year, her teacher shared with me, how she was apprehensive to have Jamie in her class. Unsure how Jamie would handle the class setting. With tears in her eyes on that last day, she said, “It had been a tough year, the class had challenged her, but because of Jamie’s smile, she had the ability to not give up. Jamie’s disability helped carry her through the year.”

When Jamie was about 5 years old, we took a trip with my niece and her children to Texas to visit my sister. We stopped for fuel. Jamie was told to stay in the car with the others while I went inside to pay. My niece needed the restroom so she came in and Jamie followed her. Jamie asked for a snack cake, but our plan was to eat when we arrived at my sister’s house. I told her, no, but a little lady looked at me & said, “Let that child have a snack” and she bought it for her. I realized at that time, the world was going to spoil my child.

On separate occasions, years after Jamie went to Jr. High, I met up with former principles of the elementary school. Both shared with me, Jamie would give them a hug, every afternoon before leaving school. Sometimes they may have had an extremely hard day, and her hug would lift their spirit.

In Jr. High, the assistant principal would give her such a hard time. He gave Jamie the name “Jasmine” and that is what he called her every day. She would stomp her feet, saying, “My name is Jamie, not Jasmine.” He would laugh. Getting Jamie frustrated seems to be what most of her friends and family like to do.

Most people go through their entire life not knowing their purpose. Jamie’s smile so often would lift a person’s bad day when she was a child. Being an adult, she finds it a little more difficult to be happy and carefree as she was in childhood. Her pain has gotten worse, therefore, it is more difficult to smile. Sometimes she needs someone to give her that smile and hug her that she so easily gave as a child. The great job we did making her independent also makes it more difficult to ask for help from anyone; even when she needs it!

  Why do we try so hard to fit in? We are all created equal. We have different hopes, dreams, and talents. It is when we try to fit in, we are put into a box. Thinking outside of the box is what makes us truly become what we are meant to be.  Ourselves.

People often tell me what a wonderful job Ronald & I have done raising Jamie. I feel we have been blessed to have shared in her great little life. Her life hasn’t been easy, no life is. Dealing with a disability for a child is more challenging, but the rewards I’ve received, far more outweigh the challenges. Sometimes, I still feel guilty, because the struggles with her disabilities have taught me so much about life. Although I do realize, we didn’t raise her alone.”

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