In this week’s episode, I talk about hemiplegia and what it is like to have a disability.
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It was five minutes after eleven and the news leads into the Arsenio Hall show. As a four year old, my bedtime was usually non-negotiable but occasionally I could stay up late to watch the opening monologues of the show. A comedian opened the show and said things in crazy voices, one after the other. Every single one was proceeded by laughter. The routine was funnier the longer he was on stage. At that moment, I wanted to be like him when I grew up. His name was Robin Williams.
I was 23 and in my last semester of college. It was a time I should have been excited about graduation and starting a new phase of my life but I wasn’t. I should have left my small campus dorm room but I couldn’t. I knew I had hobbies, passions, and dreams but I was disinterested. The happier I tried to appear, the sadder I became. I was depressed.
I didn’t know that in addition to our shared love of humor, Robin also struggled with depression. All the while, he built a successful comedy and film career and no one saw depression quietly haunting him.
I thought I was over my depression but his cousin whom comes over to visit, anxiety, was here for a visit. He likes to drop ideas in a person’s head. These ideas convinced me I have an illness and the only way to cure it is to search the Internet to find out what it is, even though by a doctor’s account I’m healthy. These ideas rant like a conspiracy theorist. I still had these little thoughts flying around in my head, not all the time but enough of the time. They grew more persistent, soon they became obsessed. I thought I was going crazy and any day soon my loved ones were going to find me drinking mouthwash out of a dog bowl.
Fortunately, along with help from some new medication and a few other changes started a process of mental healing. The journey to a new place of peace continues, I will find it one day.
Depression and anxiety are complex and are even difficult to understand even if you have the same diagnosis. I am not plagued by Suicidal tendencies like Robin and shudder to imagine what it is like living with them and suffering until the only escape to find is death. Make no mistake, Anxiety and Depression are disorders no one wants afflicted upon them. No one is condoning Suicide by empathize with these victims. Suicides are a symptom not a cause of a much larger problem. Life and death were never meant to be choices.
I encourage you to research these common disorders. You may or you may not have depression. If you do have depression, it doesn’t mean you’re suicidal, talk about it with a friend or relative whom you trust. If you need further help, call a professional. Please tell someone because the worst part of depression is feeling isolated. Even if it seems no one seems to understand, talk anyway. Don’t struggle alone.
If you know someone who has committed suicide. I hope you see this soul’s life is greater than a dark moment when they ended it. Life is greater than death, dear friend, and God brings life even when others choose to end it. As a Christian, I believe life conquers death and those who departed and their loved ones should have hope even when life is gone.
P. S. New information has come out on Robin Williams diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. According to research, Parkinson’s can exacerbate depression and anxiety. Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s new treatments are being developed.
Note: When I started writing this I thought it would be a personal history, however, it became a reflection piece on having hemeparesis. If you want to see the first post in the series, Click here.
It was a cold fall morning, a rarity for Dallas. My parents and I crossing the street as fast as we could, as fast as a five-year old could to the Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.
I hadn’t been to a hospital in several years so the fear was obvious on my face. We walked into the biggest waiting room I’d ever been in and I remember I looked up at the high vaulted ceiling and saw a contraption that I couldn’t believe existed.There was a fully suspended model blimp hovering over us. It had an open frame with multiple gears spinning inside it and two cowboys piloting a tandem bicycle that functioned as the cockpit. The propellers made of tennis rackets, weather veins, and spoons. It moved with controlled turbulence. In all the commotion, it never sank or looked like it was going to stop. Now, I understand that it was held by wires but back then I thought to myself, “Is it flying or is it floating?”
I could say that it was flying. It had moving parts and propellers that moved together to make it fly. Every gear rotated as it should. Every piece moved in the same direction. The machine dazzled anyone who stopped and looked at it. It was as if the blimp was actually flying and the spectators were seeing a live airshow. There are moments I felt like I could fly, the moments that everyone seemed to stop and look: When I got a 5th place ribbon at my first grade field day (I’m not very athletic so that’s good enough for me); When I help my friends and neighbors; When I graduated from high school and college. In moments like these, the disability fades into the background and I’m not caricatured by the disability.
I don’t dwell on my disability every day but there are times I know my have a damaged body: When I need to carry a big box or heavy tray, turn a doorknob with my left hand. These are the times that I float and I follow the airship. The blimp ran without as it should, It stays on its course and fulfills its role without worrying about how successful the model is.
One of My favorite poems is by John Milton, author of Paradise Lost. Milton had poor eyesight and towards the end of his life, He went blind. He worried that his blindness would stop him from writing.
“God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
I am starting my first series. I have a condition called Hemiparesis, It was caused by a stroke when I was born.
Whenever I meet someone, they notice that I look different from them. Some aren’t bothered by my appearance but others are. I answer their questions to put them at ease. Unfortunately, People want to cure me before they even know me. I know they have good intentions but it demeans both of us because it places us in a hierarchical relationship, not an equal one.
There are different types of disabilities: physical, mental, and emotional. And Those conditions look different depending on the person. It is unfair to define someone by what they can’t do. For example, I can’t do math well. If it is a process that isn’t on a basic calculator, I can’t do it. However, This doesn’t show who I am or reduce the other qualities I have. It only shows what I can’t offer not what I can offer.
Recently, I saw a public service announcement encouraging employers to hire employees with disabilities to join the workforce. Isn’t that what Jesus did? He didn’t heal the blind eyes, bum legs, or withered hands just to show his power (although it was part of it). He needed workers and these people needed to be in the workforce of His Kingdom. He wanted everyone to have a job so He made the unable, able. As the church, we should follow his example. We look for ministries the folks can do and get them in. We say “What will they do” instead of “What can they Do”. Through these people may God be shown. I will share my story next time. Please leave questions or comments below.