Quietly Disabled

Hi, my name’s Amanda…I’m 30 years old….and I’m disabled.

This is something you may or may not have known about me, because my disabilities are the quiet kind. From a distance they look harmless – at worst, catalysts of cheap entertainment really…. but be warned friends…they are the ninjas of physical setbacks. They will  stealthily sneak up, combining forces to attack and create a lethal combination of clumsiness and general lack of physical ability. They are my anti-superpowers. They render me a threat to myself and – let’s be honest….everyone around me. So for your own safety, I urge you reader, to read on…

Disability 1: Size

Have you ever dreaded leaving a grocery store because the automatic doors may not open for you on the way out? I doubt you have because most of you, by the time you reach adulthood, have surpassed the average 9-year-old in size. If the show were, “Are you Taller than a Fifth Grader,” I would lose. Let me explain a little-known fact about those “handy” devices that monitor your comings and goings…they operate on a height restriction. I know this, because on many occasions I’ve been stuck standing in front of the door with Grandpa Chap Ass and the Hoveround Gang, jumping up and down and flailing my arms around wildly, in hopes of achieving something the rest of you really take for granted – simply exiting.  My only saving grace is that I don’t have short, fat fingers – because if I did I would just go ahead and change my last name to Keebler, find a man named Bilbo Baggins to marry, and take up residence in a tree trunk or pumpkin with tiny round wooden doors and thimble stools. But honestly, when compared to being held hostage in a Rite Aid – the hobbit homestead starts to look pretty appealing…  

Disability 2: Inability to walk without falling

We’ve been unable to pinpoint an exact cause (other than the occasional link to alcohol consumption), but for some reason there’s a strange generational flaw in my family history that has affected both my sister and I ~ Sudden Leg Failure Syndrome. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a mildly debilitating condition ~ the worst side affect being the likelihood of extensive bruising ~ and it’s often met only with laughter. I don’t know if they’re variations of the disease, or just coping methods, but my sister and I go down very differently. We refer to my sister’s technique as “The Stickman Topple” ~ because, like a little stickperson, she will suddenly fly into a fit of falling – all waif-like legs and arms – everything akimbo for 2.2 seconds – then she’s disappeared. More times than I can count I’ve done a double-take while we’re having a conversation, because one minute she’s standing by the couch talking to you, and the next, she’s underneath it. I have an opposite fall calling card…it’s the Slo-mo. You haven’t seen someone stretch 5 seconds into 4 hours until you’ve seen me hit the pavement. And let me assure you – you’re not the only one experiencing the awkwardness of the extended fall – I have a lot of time to think about how I must look going down mid-tumble. Have you ever started dating someone, and you’re just TOTALLY in love and then suddenly they do something…maybe make a certain face, or mispronounce a second-grade vocabulary word, or….fall flat on their face….and you know the love is gone? Well, as soon as you see your significant other standing over you yelling, “man down!” you know you’ve been the victim of this cruel turn of events.

It would be nice if I had something I could blame this on…perhaps an old teacher, partial to primitive methods of student correction, who would hit my ankles with a stick every time I answered a math problem incorrectly. Or maybe they’ll find someday that wearing K-Swiss throughout the entire growth development period lead to  some strange muscular issues.  That would be a really great excuse. Until that day comes…its just another fault of my own genetic code. 


 Disability 3: Sight

Up until about 4 months ago I had accepted the fact that I couldn’t see people’s faces as part of the natural order ~ then a friend of mine suggested I might be certifiably crazy for letting this go without a fight. I’ve always been convinced that the way people see color is relative – and using this same logic, I had let myself live 30 years under the assumption that everyone else really couldn’t see THAT much better – it probably wouldn’t be worth the hassle of dealing with contact lenses. BUT, unwilling to add “crazy” to my ever-growing list of disabilities (too late…skidoosh!) I set up an appointment with the eye doctor, who suggested I might not only be crazy but also very reckless, after determining I was legally blind in one eye. When I drove home with my glasses the next day I felt like Superman – “I can see what people are doing in their CARS! I can see STREET SIGNS! I can see that turn in the road 15 feet ahead!!”  (Sadly, this is no exaggeration). I was a new woman – the only things standing between me and invincibility were a pair of stilts and a protective inflatable bubble.  Flash forward to about a week later…armed with my new glasses I roamed downtown, excited to see all those things I had NOT for the first 30 years of my life. I was almost hit by a car twice because of this new distraction I liked to call “sight”. Due to a strange disparity between my one eye and the prescription, certain things appeared smaller,shorter, or further away than they actually were. I would grab for a door handle and hit air. I was falling off curbs I had never even known existed. I was shocked that “shorty shirts” seemed to be a hot new spring clothing trend.  The joke was on me. Again. Sometimes, no matter what steps you take to thwart it, DNA just really has it in for you.

But I DO have this to say for being quietly disabled: something sort of borderline amazing happens to your appreciation for life when you realize that you wouldn’t be around if “Survival of the Fittest” still applied. Let’s face it – if we were still practicing hunting and gathering now, I’d be the character you loved to hate in Oregon Trails…

Weather: Warm

Food: 2000 pounds

Miles Traveled: 10

….Amanda has developed dysentery.

“WHAT THE….?!?! That damn weakling better pull it together, because we are NOT stopping at Fort Boise! I hope when we ford the Barlow river she is among the lost wagon axles, oxen and bullets. This bodes well for NO ONE! NO ONE I TELL YOU!”

I would have thrown myself under an oncoming wagon wheel had I suffered the misfortune of growing up in the mid-1800’s quietly disabled. I imagine at the funeral there would just be a lot of people mulling around in high-necked waistcoats, shrugging knowingly and echoing the sentiment, “…well,the thing is…three strikes and you’re out you know? Its not like we didn’t see this coming.”

I think it’s this thought that makes me feel the need to prove myself, push myself to do things considered reckless –  really take a bite out of life since I’m basically living on borrowed time. The unfortunate irony here is that my risk-taking behavior usually only leads to the discovery of yet another dormant disability, or creation of a new one – rendering me that much more of a danger. So heed the warning – next time you’re out and about – remember the quietly disabled, because you probably won’t see us coming…and, at least a few of us won’t see you either.


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6 Responses to “Quietly Disabled”
  1. becky says:

    wow Amanda- I really loved this!! Nice work!

  2. Amanda, I’ve reinstated your Facebook page, included both your blog and your website in my favorites, and grown up a bit following your comment-of-old jolting me into a real world I hadn’t fully accepted. And, after laughing my way through this latest piece of wonderful writing, only then did I realize I’ve contributed greatly to your disabilities. I guess I should enumerate other traits I know I carry (and, some, even exhibit) to allow you to prepare yourself for what might be to come as you move past thirty. Or, maybe not… life might be hazardous enough without adding anticipation of the worst (actually, your sister has a corner on THAT market already). Or, maybe I should just go to the dentist, keeping the appointment I made a while back…

  3. amanda says:

    HA – don’t tell me about what’s to come! I prefer to continue staggering (half) blindly toward my disability-riddled future! Glad you have come away from the dark side of seeing my posts and can read them and laugh now! And it will give you and AC one more thing to talk about when you see each other! 🙂

  4. Rachel says:

    OMG, I enjoy all of your posts, but seriously, this one had me laughing out loud. While I don’t have an actual diagnosis for disability 2, I think it can be linked to being an Eldridge, as I know I am afflicted by this condition and I believe that my lovely sister has had a bout or twelve with it. We probably have Max to thank for this, but that’s okay, it could have been worse…we could have gotten this disability from her AND she could have talked mom or your dad in to naming us Salmonella. Thank god we are still alive. 🙂 XOXO

    • amanda says:

      Hahaha – it’s true – in every way that we are UNLUCKY, there are so many ways in which we are SUPER lucky…having the name Salmonella might have been the greatest disability of all! The next time we’re all together we need to take a pic of all of us cousins falling – Adam might be the only one who managed to avoid the curse!


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