Before I go off on my tirade, I'd like to share a paragraph from a book I just finished. It's written by a young man who was born without legs. (Double Take: A Memoir by Kevin Michael Connolly)
"...I don't think of myself as 'disabled.' As I interpret the word, you are only disabled if you are incapable of overcoming the challenges presented in any given situation. I might be disabled when I try to haul a hundred pounds of concrete up a flight of stairs, but to my mind, I'm perfectly able-bodied when I am skateboarding around New York City. Being disabled is also a matter of choice. Anything that you try to hide from the world also imposes a limit on you. If you don't want to risk showing off your wobbly knees or clumsiness on the dance floor and decide to sit on the sidelines, then you are unable to dance. Thus, disabled."
If a man born without any legs doesn't see himself as disabled and is able to make a living and even do many things that average people can't... then what is a real disability?
It's interesting to see what the world thinks is a disability nowadays. I've spoken to far too many people who think that back pain, depression, alchoholism, obesity and other maladies are disabilities that should enable them to receive social security disability pay. This really ticks me off. I mean, these are otherwise fairly normal, average health people who would rather have taxpayers pay them to continue their lifestyle and shirk their responsibility rather than seek treatment and become productive again. If you're healthy enough to do everything else that a "normal" person does (walk, talk, go shopping, go out to eat, drive, take care of yourself and/or children, sit on the computer for hours on end, etc.) then you're probably healthy enough to hold down some sort of job. It may not be a job you like and it may cause you some discomfort, but maybe it will be the motivation you need to get off your butt and do something with your life.
If my husband had wanted to he probably could have applied for disability a time or two- he's had multiple surgeries on his hand and back, as well as bouts of depression- but he's always been anxious to get back to work. He's got too much self-respect to want others to take care of him and his family if he's able to at all. He tries to take care of himself so that he is in a position to continue working.
I probably could have qualified for disability also because of my social anxiety disorder and depression. But if I had, where would I be today? Would I have had the motivation to change and grow? Would I have had any desire to do anything different if I was able to sit back and just wait for checks to show up in the mail? I think that for people with depression, social anxiety disorders, obesity and many other issues being put on "disability" is the worst thing that can happen to them. It takes away their personal responsibility to at least attempt to be a productive human being. It also takes away their dignity and self-respect.
Often a "disability" is only a disability because a person has perceived it as such. If there was no money available to people who complained of these maladies it would be amazing to see how many of them would suddenly become well enough to find other sources of income. I think we're doing our entire society a serious injustice when we support programs that encourage people to lean so heavily on diagnoses and how they limit them, rather than helping them understand that even with a "disability" they can learn to overcome and triumph. They can improve their lives and set an example that their children can be proud to follow.
I know there are people who really are disabled. There are definitely those who are truly unable to care for themselves, and I think we ought to be willing to help them out. But for many of people in the US on "disability" it's more about the way they think than any real handicap. It's just a shame that our society has allowed people to become so irresponsible and dependent, and worse, that we've come to accept this as "normal."