Gaining Confidence

-by Jenna Clark

I’m a big fan of The Biggest Loser, it’s one of my many guilty pleasures. A lot of times the contestants face extreme activities that force them to face their fears. As I watch these people jump off buildings, zip line, bungee jump…I get jealous.

I want to face my fears. I want to grow and change and break the cycles I sometimes feel drown me. Because whether expressed in a positive or negative way, I was raised to believe I couldn’t do “normal”* things like living on my own.

But I did. After high school, I attended a university in the city and lived alone in a dorm room. At first, I had attendants help with everything. I gradually learned to do more for myself and relied less on an attendant. One morning, I even did *everything* myself. I woke up at 5AM for a 9:35 class.

After that, I learned what I could do on my own, what I could do but that took too much energy, and what I struggled with. It took that 3 hour morning to know my limits and get a balance
between doing things for myself and getting help — a balance between proving a point and living.

Like most people at that age, I was — mostly — fearless. I knew my disability meant I looked at life differently and I was more aware than most that I wasn’t invisible, but being a teenager meant I was ready to face things I probably should’ve ignored.

Fifteen years later, I’m afraid of everything and am stuck in the mindset that I can’t live alone. There’s a certain truth to that — when I move out I’ll need a live-in attendant, or at least attendants that work in shifts — but instead of encouragement, I face mostly positive ways of saying I’m incapable of living by myself. To be fair, a lot of discouragement comes from not having the financial resources. Others, though, are more focused on my disability.

My disability does not in any way mean I can’t live alone. I need 24/7 attendants, but that doesn’t mean I’m incapable of independence. And no, independence doesn’t mean living without help. It means controlling my life, whether that’s hiring attendants or figuring out ways to do things for myself.

My fears stop me from doing many things. I want to face those fears by jumping off buildings and trusting people and wires and whatever else would be there for support. I checked, but I didn’t see any organizations that provided those extreme activities for people with disabilities.

That idea goes to the top of the list of organizations I want to create when I finally have the resources. But that means I have to face my fears in other, smaller, ways. I don’t know how yet, but I’ll figure it out. And if I get the chance to zip line or jump off a building, I hope I have the courage to follow through with it.

* I hate the word normal but couldn’t think of a better word.

Originally Posted at Reverse the Sky.

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