31 Days of SMA: Note to My Younger Self? Don’t Hide Who You Are

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Tristram Peters

Day 12 of 31

This is Tristram Peters’ (@tristrampeters) story:

When I was younger, I tried to hide my disability. I’d push myself to do everything my peers did, to show my disability didn’t matter. I’d even choose not to wear my tray/table on my wheelchair, thinking it made me look more “disabled.” (Yeah, as if the wheelchair didn’t give it away…)

I look back and wish I could have told my younger self to celebrate my difference. Because now I do and my life is richer for it. My mental health is too.

I think ableism is something we don’t discuss enough in our society, scared of the stigma. It is real and the impact it has on our mental health is undeniable. People told me I couldn’t play sports, go to university, live by myself. It SUCKED hearing this. I internalized all that ableism and my mental health took a hit. I hid my disability as much as possible, stopped wearing my tray, and apologized to people way too much.

But it’s wrong. I realized that all those people who said those things didn’t know me, and they had nothing to challenge their view. So I challenged it. Now, I’ve played sports for my country, obtained three university degrees, and moved into my own place. I still apologize too much, but I’m working on it.

The point is: don’t hide who you are. You might not want the same things as me, but you can achieve what you want. Challenge the ableism. I wish I could’ve started years ago, because my mental health is all the better for it.

SMA News Today’s 31 Days of SMA campaign will publish one story per day for SMA Awareness Month in August. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofSMA, or read the full series.