"How do you feel you are able to live a fulfilling life without full use of your mind or body or
Before I became disabled, I measured my life’s value according to the abled standards
that society had taught me. A fulfilling life meant studying hard in university, going out with
friends on weekends, working an enjoyable job that paid my bills, and generally keeping up with
my peers. I lost all these things when I developed mobility issues, severe brain fog, and
overwhelming fatigue due to multiple chronic illnesses.
At first this was difficult. I felt lost and unfulfilled and longed to have my abled life back
and return to the things that made my life look successful from the outside. When living in a
society that measures value by how much a person contributes, it can be hard to find sources of fulfillment outside of these standards. However, as I embraced my disability, I also embraced an alternate view of fulfillment. I still have days of longing, but in releasing abled expectations, I’ve gained incredible freedom.
Rather than finding fulfillment in what I can do, I find fulfillment in who I am.
I am a curious person, so I find ways that fit my abilities to explore that curiosity. Resources I can enjoy from bed, like young adult audiobooks and captioned webinars, make new information accessible to me.
I love people, and while my fatigue makes it difficult to socialize in person, I’ve learned
to connect with others in alternate ways. I’ve discovered the beauty of building friendships
through social media, having discussions on Discord, and video chatting with friends from bed.
I am an artist, and though many types of art are inaccessible to me, I’ve been able to
teach myself new ways to express this part of me. I crochet wearing compression gloves and
using ergonomic hooks, I draw digitally on my tablet, I try new makeup looks and don’t mind if the outcome is imperfect, because it’s about the experience and the joy that can be derived from it.
Engaging in low-stakes activities like meditation and breathwork allow me to find
tranquility in quiet moments of connection with my internal world.
My room is decorated with objects that bring me joy which creates a peaceful sanctuary in
which I spend most of my time. I surround myself with things that I love – books, art, cozy
blankets, beautiful colors...things that most would glance over as ordinary, but that I treasure
because I’ve been given the opportunity to slow down and take in the beauty of the “mundane.”
My life looks limited from the outside – I’m primarily housebound and spend most hours
lying in bed. My brain doesn’t allow me to focus on print books or long conversations, and most of the time I spend outside my house is at doctor appointments. But I no longer feel unfulfilled because of these things. With a deeper connection to who I am, I have been able to reimagine what fulfillment means for me and lean into activities that may look unexciting or repetitive from an abled point of view, but are deeply life-giving for me.
Fulfillment now looks like shifting away from a mindset that claims disability as purely limiting and giving myself freedom to adapt my interests without shame. It looks like embracing my disabilities as beautiful. Fulfillment comes when I let go of abled expectations and unapologetically believe that my life has incredible value and worth in a society that tells me the opposite. And most importantly, I feel incredibly full when I am learning from my disabled community and seeking joy alongside them.
I have been disabled for three years, and my life is more fulfilling now than ever before.