“I am very lucky – I have a wonderful, supportive family, a fun and rewarding career, and amazing friends. However, it has not always been this way. You see, I have a disability and unlike what you might think of disabilities, mine is hidden,” says Valerie Hill.
Valerie shares her story of coming to terms with disclosing to others that she lived with a disability.
“The fact that I can share this story today tells me how far I’ve come as it wasn’t until just recently that I even felt comfortable sharing and disclosing information about my disability.”
Valerie says as a young child she came to the realization that she may be a little different from her peers. Academics seemed to come harder for her than the other students. However, Valerie was an extrovert and she was good at making friends and playing sports.
She states, “I did everything in my power to be “normal” on the outside and therefore I was very successful at hiding my disability.”
Valerie continued to hide her disability until she had a child and it became apparent to her that her son may have the same disability that she has. Valerie began noticing that her son dealt with some of the same challenges she had at his age. Such as difficulty with paying attention, speech issues and other areas when it came to comprehension.
“Seeing this and knowing how it affected me growing up, I knew it was time to speak up not only for myself but for my son to take the FEAR out of disclosing.”
Valerie did not want to disclose to someone that she lived with a disability and have that person judge or feel sorry for her. When Valerie did share that she had a disability she was often surprised by people’s reactions. “ I always thought that if I let people know I had a disability, then they would immediately understand what I had been dealing with. Unfortunately, I learned this was not the right approach,” she says.
Valerie brings a valid point - how could other people understand her disability if she did not understand it herself? Valerie learned through disclosure that you have to be able to educate people on what disability is in order to change their perspective. She says, “If I were to simply tell them about my disability though without education then I have simply allowed myself to face my worst fears – being judged for my disability.”
“With this understanding, I’ve discovered that it is up to me to take ownership and be proud of who I am. My disABILITY is a part of who I am but it certainly does not define me. We only allow it to define us when we blame others for their lack of knowledge.”
Valerie states that knowledge is power when educating someone about your disability. She has found that she is more successful when she takes control of the conversation. Valerie also credits using humor for making someone feel more comfortable.
Valerie concludes her post by saying, “We all have strengths and weaknesses so I encourage you to not let your disability define who you are but instead, let it strengthen and empower you.”
Do you have tips for disclosing a disability? Share your story with us at AbleThrive.com!