A lot of people have been discussing what independence means to them. I thought I would throw my hat in the ring since I have a unique yet all too common experience for the MDA community — I am an independent woman … one who needs help with just about every physical task.
When I left for college three hours north of my family, I knew I would have to take on the role of a lifetime, Ms. Independence, in short order.
I had to hire a full staff of attendants to help with everything from getting me ready to cleaning my dorm room. I hired students and occasionally fired students. I determined what I needed and how I needed it to be done, and have become quite adept at explaining every step. I decided when I went to bed, when I got up and who helped me do both. The whole process taught me that even if can’t squeeze a toothpaste tube, I can control my own destiny.
After school, my quest for independence continued. I designed my condo with accessible features, like a track lift and maneuverable space for my wheelchair, to make it perfectly livable. And now I have to navigate the rigors of a law practice without the ability to lift those heavy law books. The key to my success has been computers and the ability to ask for help.
Throughout my life I've learned more and more that it’s OK to ask for help — everyone needs help sometime. I just need help with different things. I need assistance with reaching vitamins at the grocery store. But if you need a complaint drafted for a lawsuit, I’m your girl. Asking for help doesn't make me less independent; it allows me to be as independent as possible. This help comes from people paid to assist me, as well as family, friends and random strangers.
I try not to rely on family and friends for too much unpaid help because I don’t want to wear out my welcome. I know they’re always happy to help when needed, but relying on this help too much lessens my sense of independence. Nonetheless, when I need them, they’re there for me and they are also essential to my independence.
With all the knowledge I've gained over the years and the kindness of strangers and not-so-strangers, I truly believe that I have transformed into the girl I dreamed of being — Ms. Independence. Look out world … I have the ability to ask for help, and I know how to use it!