By Teren Christensen, CSWnikkobridgeBlue 

            I was born with Spina Bifida, which is a birth defect caused by an opening in my back at birth, exposing my spinal chord. The defect affects the nerves and the muscle growth in my lower body, making it difficult to walk. Since I was in the sixth grade, I have used a wheelchair full-time to move around.

Living with a disability is hard. When I was younger I handled it better because using a wheelchair was practical. I was transitioning from one classroom in elementary school to several classrooms a day in junior high, so I used a wheelchair to avoid being late to classes. As I have grown older, I have had a more difficult time accepting my disability. As I see friends playing sports or doing other active things, I feel down because I cannot join them. However, I have been able to find things I can do with my disability that has helped me stay positive and happy.

One of the things that I have found to be most helpful in managing life with a disability is faith. Faith is a powerful thing. It has provided me with the perspective that my disability has meaning rather than merely bad luck. Faith can help an individual remain positive and see the good things that have come from disability. For example, I have been able to see that my disability has helped me develop patience as I have strived to accept, for example, that I can’t go play sports with my able-bodied friends as I’d like. My faith also gives me hope that there is a life after this one and I will have the ability to walk again someday.

Exercise is another useful way of managing disability. I like to work out. It feels good to experiment with what I am able to do, and it is enjoyable to see that my body is capable of more than I initially believed. Discovering more of what I am capable of helps me be upbeat and it increases my confidence in my ability to manage my disability. As with able-bodied individuals, regular exercise can also be energizing. Exercise keeps the body healthy, and it stimulates mental abilities.

A third important aspect of managing a disability is accepting support. I like to feel somewhat independent getting around in my wheelchair, so sometimes I avoid or refuse help. If I am unable to accomplish the task I desire, I get insecure and embarrassed. It is important to remember that sometimes it isn’t possible to manage your disability alone. I’ve discovered that having the support of family and friends is a great boon to my confidence. It helps me feel I can manage my disability successfully. People are available for support and really do want to help. Allowing them to help can strengthen relationships and foster more secure attachments.