To be eligible to play wheelchair rugby you basically need an impairment in at least
three limbs. This criterion covers a wide range of people but the word I want to focus on is impairment, it's what all players have in common. When you live with impairments you come across barriers, different to those with an able body. Along with everyday life the bigger your impairment the more barriers you come across. I personally believe these barriers force us (impaired people) to live slightly different lives. Let me just say this now, this is my personal opinion and the last thing I want is to offend anyone.
I for one don't mind being seen as the big taboo word 'different'. I mean, I can't walk, that's a big difference right there, and when steps can stop you in your tracks you have to think about things a bit more. That's not to say we should be treated differently, just because our impairments make us live a different way of life, our personalities still make us unique. I've met people that see us all as saints and believe me, a lot of us aren't. Along with thinking we're all humbled and down to earth, again not the case. Just because we have similar barriers we must get over, under, it doesn't make us the same. People are formed on how they approach barriers, just as some able bods are bitter and twisted and some are humble and down to earth. Everyone is different!
I'm writing this article because I've had my disability for almost two decades and over that time feel I've experienced these traits within myself. For a short period of time, I wasn't doing much with my life. Thinking I'd accepted my disability and choosing to live the easy way, not going out and socializing simply because it was harder than before. If I came across a barrier I'd turn around and roll away instead of looking for a way around the barrier. Yes, it may have been an easier life, but I soon became unhappy. Looking back, unemployed and no hobbies, I hadn't accepted my disability at all, I was shying away from it.
Something clicked and it became obvious I needed to set some goals and gain some self-worth. I had the choice of becoming bitter or truly accepting my circumstances and finally moving on. Friends and Family around me helped make that choice, even if I couldn't do it for myself their motivation was enough to change that. I'm a firm believer in that sometimes the only person who can help you is yourself, but there's nothing wrong with getting help along the way. Someone else that really helped me was a motivational speaker and strongman contestant who posted videos on YouTube. He's very strong minded and confident, some might even say cocky and arrogant, but it was what I needed at the time. Some videos are about philosophies, but his main ethos is being the best version of yourself, and that's what stuck the most. Feeling a lack of ambition and well-being I put my chin up and puffed my chest, looked at my life and took control of my situation. I set some goals and made some changes.
A few years later and I've now managed to achieve a couple of goals I set back then, living as independently as possible with a live-in carer and doing a job that I'm extremely passionate about. Gaining my sense of self-worth and now facing challenges head on has helped me accept my impairments. Yes, there are obvious differences between me and someone fully able, but not much comes easy to anyone. Just the other day I was talking to a mate about managing life day to day and if you want something, go and get it. We have very different lives in that he has two children, a full-time job and is able bodied but we still learn from each other. That's because he looks past my impairments and the barriers that come with it. To him I'm another thirty-two-year-old that's been brought up in the same area and gained a similar set of values. Although we have different lives, we still have a lot in common, we can still push each other in everyday life and be there in times of need. To me that's what friends are for.
I'm now all about being the best version of myself, setting goals and pushing myself to achieve them. If I now come across a barrier, I like to think I'll have enough pace to smash through it but if it does stop me there's nothing wrong with a work around. People get past barriers in their own way and that's ok, because everyone is different!
That's my opinion and I'm interested in yours, let us know by commenting on our social media platforms.