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The Woman Behind The Disability.

Updated on June 21, 2017
Juliet Stewart profile image

Juliet Austin- Holds an M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from E.S.U., she spends her time with her dog's, Heckel and Jeckel.

"On Becoming A Woman"

Forgive my use of the Title, I find it a fascinating one, It implies such beautiful secrets, well that's what I thought anyway when I was first introduced to the book (written by Harold Shryock), in my Teenage Years. I remember clearly having unanswered questions and felt privileged to finally be getting the well sought after answers. The beautiful Title did little to stem the thoughts that ran rampant through my mind when as a Young Woman I first held it. It, however, did answer the questions most Young Women had, in a most antiseptic way, as only a Male Clinician could. Throughout the Years the Title has stuck with me, a grim reminder of the function of the Female Form. As I grew into maturity, I quickly realized what Harold could never, and would never understand. Women are so much more than the sum of their parts.

The Feminine Mystique.

Being A Woman is so much more than reproduction, It's the waking up every Morning and having the deep, appreciation for the way, you walk, talk, smell, the color of your hair, eyes, and body, even if no one else thinks it. It's about Loving yourself for all that you see. It's that heady, happy feeling, like a smile that starts inward, moving through each vein, touching muscles, ligaments, bones, then radiates outward. It makes Men and Women alike take that second glance because you are so profoundly confident in who you are.

When you find yourself, in that position whereby, People ask "What is it about..., In my case Molly"? Then you know true contentment. In truth, there really is nothing out of the way special about me. I just really enjoy being Female, the complexities that come, the moody, unrealistic, me, is in all Women, I just embrace mine and revel in all my different Personalities. It's a beautiful reminder to me of the role Females play in the grand scheme of Life.

The Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Americans With Disabilities Act, although signed into Law, in 1990 by Congress; had its initial start during the 1960s it came about as a grassroots movement, following closely on the backs of the Civil Rights Movement. It basically sought to afford the rights to People with Disability, the similar or equal rights to access, as other segments of the Population. "The impetus for the ADA grew out of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Federal legislation to protect civil rights initially focused on the prevention of racial discrimination. Having seen the federal government involve itself in protecting racial minorities, advocates for the disabled began to agitate for protection for their constituency as well"

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 out of almost 5 People in the U.S.A has a Disabling Condition. Statistics include Children. Of the 56.7 Million People with a Disability, Adult Women made up 20% of the Population, and Adult Men made up 17%.

Types of Disabilities That Are More Accepted As Disabling.

Decreased or loss of Mobility is physical in nature and includes injury to the upper and lower limb. Poor and loss of co-ordination of various body parts. Impairment disability can be congenital or acquired with the age due to Musculoskeletal disease, or injury.

Spinal cord disability: Associated with disease or injury to the spinal cord, in the case of the disease there are several that can affect or lead to the long-term condition being disabling. Arthritis being the number one reason. Spinal cord injury can be complete or incomplete. Incomplete spinal injury, there is the complete loss of sensory or motor skills; More definable because the individual will be confined to a Wheeled Chair. I was a young Mother when I sustained what is identified as lifting injury in the Army Reserves, after getting out of the Regular Army with the intent complete at least a Bachelors degree then re-enlisting as an Officer, as the saying goes sometimes bad things happen to good People. I started experiencing numbness, and weakness in my left leg at first, there were times when my leg would just give way and result in my knee buckling just giving out on me. There were Doctor visits and x-rays that did not seem to show an issue. Someone suggested Physical Therapy, it was during the initial evaluation that the Chiropractor started off with an MRI and saw the damage. he gave me a copy of the results to take to my Doctor. The results showed a badly compressed nerve, It was while waiting for the results of the Military to find me eligible to receive care that I started losing bowel and bladder function. Everything it seems moved in slow motion yet, it was in fact very fast. I was told to get to the emergency room as soon as I could. Loss of bowel and bladder function points to nerve damage and can lead to paralysis total or partial if not attended to. In my case, I was very fortunate. My nerves though compressed left me only partially paralyzed.

Effects of Partial Paralysis

Ankylosis spondylodesis, Sciatic Nerve Damage, Arthritis, (Degenerative Joint disease), depression as well as other sub-issues.

Arthritis, (Degenerative Joint disease) As degeneration progresses it becomes a lot more debilitating movement and joint stiffness, narrowing of spinal cord becomes an issue, necessitating the use of a sleep apnea machine. As a Woman having to deal with the effects is very emotional. The emotional stress leads to more pain it's cyclical. Stress brings on pain, and the pain brings loss of ability as well as more stress. Whereas in incomplete spinal injury, the ability to function is not completely lost. Family members, Doctors in some cases, peers have a difficult time coping with incomplete spinal cord injury. The Individual may not look sick, or incapable, however, there are physical limitations.

Some Hidden Disabling Conditions

Mental Disorders/ Cognitive Dissonance: Most Mental disorders although not easily defined by a Lay Person is identifiable, due in part to the fact that Medication alone cannot control fully; behavior. The Individual will exhibit low or limited ability for self-care, not due to physical limitations, but due to depression and the ability to react normally to everyday routine.

Cognitive Dissonance is a break from reality, due in some cases to Mental Illness its cause is attributable to disease or illness, as in the case of Alzheimer's, Head Injury, and Dementia to name a few. Because these conditions are not visible unless the individual expresses or acts in way's not considered normal these Conditions are often misunderstood by professionals and Family members.

Visual Impairment: Blindness total or partial does not carry with it as profound a stigma as with other disabilities, with the advancement of technology, People who were once impaired visually can now undergo surgeries to correct the loss of sight. Not to diminish or dismiss the serious nature of the issues that an Individual will experience, Like any Disabling Condition, it is Life changing. for the Family as well as the Individual experiencing it.

Deafness/ Loss of Hearing also attributable to Disease, Injury or Birth defects. The Deaf has a community and support system all their own. Of all the Disabilities, the People affected may be some of the most well-adjusted, and in most cases are accepting of their conditions; that is if they are born Deaf. A newly Deaf Individual, will experience depression and mourn the loss of their ability to hear. As with Visual impairment, new technology can restore or ensure that hearing is restored in some cases. Keep in mind that not everyone will experience disabling conditions the same way. We are individuals with differing Family dynamics, support system, and self-awareness.

How The World Views People With A Disability.

When we think of Disabilities, we often bring to mind someone with a missing arm, leg, or wheeled Chair bound. What happens when the condition is physical but not visible or when it's internal. People tend to think of Disability in terms of how severely it manifests itself physical. If it's Mental we have this stereotype of someone who perhaps, is un-kept, walks the street talking to him or herself. Or homeless.

Let's face it, we all have a stereotype of what an Individual with a disability should look like. There are some who live up to and look the part. Often times we see Women in Wheeled Chairs or walking with a cane, and I must admit, I wonder if they realize that appearance doesn't have to dictate or define them. No one has to live up to the Stereotype to the point whereby they neglect Personal Hygiene.

Loss Of Identity:"Vanity Thy Name Is Woman".

As Women, we tend to view ourselves as beautiful, and Worthwhile based on Physical appearance. It has everything to do with seeing oneself as we think an intimate partner would view us. So facing and coming to terms with a Disability is difficult. It is not vanity to use femininity to cover up a Disability, it's called caring about one's appearance. "Most men tend to focus on the physical aspects of a relationship. They are stimulated, drawn, captivated by the sight of their wife. They get excited or at least interested quickly by visual or physical stimulation". How Men and Women Differ in How They View Sex, Dennis, and Barbara Rainey. That is not to say, that Men view physical Disabilities as a turnoff, Men are less superficial than we give them credit for. It's not the disability that's a turnoff, but the way a Woman accepts her condition. Instead of focusing on the limitations, focus on being confident, and accepting, your limitations, while playing up the positive.

According to the U.S. Census, The leading cause of more People being disabled is due to Arthritis, leading to spinal cord Injury. People are sustaining Disabilities at a much younger age, the average as indicated by 2010 statistics is 22 Years. This is attributable to a variety of factors: More young drivers, Military service/War, more Women taking on jobs that were traditionally Male dominated, and believe it or not, less physical activity in the form of exercise.

With so many young Disabled People making up the Population, having a disability is not viewed as a precluding Marriage or starting a Family. People are no longer as focused on the physical as they are of common interest, achievement, and companionship/love.

"I call it home"

At times working from home impedes and blocks an individuals ability to work and depending on the disabling condition(s) and can do more damage. It can cause stress and further exacerbate an already difficult to adjust to condition(s). I had the displeasure of working part time from home prior to being advised by the V.A. Doctor to retire as a way to prolong my Health and Life. It was difficult the veterans I worked for called at odd hours. Understanding their individual needs and concerns It was difficult for me to ignore the calls at times. Calls from Veterans residing overseas were the most difficult to ignore at times as time difference played a major factor in seeing to their needs. It can cause a disruption to Family life.

Simple pleasures become important to the individual that is disabled because disabilities are individual in nature; meaning not everyone will experience a disability the same way. We the disabled population tend to find ways albeit creative ways to stay active. Writing, Painting, or finding creative outlets is important.

The Woman Behind The Disability

Showering, taking medication or not, is not a spectaor sport as anyone can watch and evaluate and then utilize it to cheat the Social Security or Department of Veterans Affairs by copying movement and how to care for health. Not a good idea. The same rules apply as it relates to phone calls and computer access. If there are Family members on the Police department. Calls can be rerouted if problems of a medical nature is experienced.

The Implications Of Not Having Access To Medication

The rerouting of Medication can at times cause severe illness, the stress can often mimic Mental disorder again making the individual subject to Family scrutiny and placing them in a Facility then becomes an issue. Withdrawal symptoms can often make it seem like an individual is drunk, one such illness is diabetes. I must admit mine is well under control, diet and exercise helps.

An evaluation must at all times be done in a Doctors office it is okay to bring trusted Family members along to perhaps pass on information that the patient may forget to mention, especially in the case of multiple Disabling conditions. In this case, the accompanying individual should be chosen by the Patient. Such was the case when I first became injured in 1993, I couldn't walk for the first two Years, the Veterans Hospital was fifty miles away in one direction and over 70 miles in the other.

Now I don't have any such needs, I have been ambulatory since 1995 and although I've had several surgeries since then. I realized that I needed to undergo physical therapy I ambulate daily. Eat properly and exercise to maintain some level of Physical wellness.

Re-routing of Medication, loss of communication, the implications

creating a need to have the disabled individual assumed to need help with care, and can even lead to death.

So no it is never a good idea to have a disabled or any Population under scrutiny.
Physical Limitations As A result Of Disability

What is An Occupational Evaluation it involves Physical evaluation, of the upper extremity mainly the use of your hands. it the test determines lbs per pressure you can carry, lift or the strength of the hands while gripping an object to name a few.

It is not easy evaluation. A Veteran must undergo several in order to meet the V.A. and Social Security eval.

Social Security does not pay disability income unless there is gainful employment that has been established through the payment into taxes. My advise to Young People as I instructed my Children, pay into Social security as soon as you start working those summer jobs, and do file Taxes. If you perhaps did not pay enough into Social Security you may not receive as much as someone who has worked gainful or Professional employment. Filing taxes ensures that Social Security income is calculated appropriately and that upon retirement or worse case scenario you become Disabled. Your income will reflect those Years you were employed and paid Taxes.

Being Disabled and Being A Woman:Your Former Self.

Depression, and Anxiety. This natural and a normal progression for someone who has experienced loss due to a disability. Self esteem, and body image issues become the focal point for everyday life, concentration on not being able to do the once normal things People take for granted leads to depression and anxiety, the more chronic (long term) , the condition, the longer depression will last.

An individual's view of body image and self esteem is directly relational to how the individual is viewed by peers: Co- Workers, Family, Friends and even professional caregivers. Most Women who are disabled will sink deeper into depression, and not care about appearance.

Malingerers: Individuals who feign, over exaggerate symptoms, Mental or Physical for gain. I'll go a step further to add based on lack of compassion from the Community as not in all cases are the individuals exaggerating, or feigning. While there is no doubt that having a disability is life changing, People who are still grieving after Years of dealing with loss of self, do it for a variety of reasons. Malingerers are not necessarily continuing the behavior due to monetary gain as the definition of Malingering implies. Lack of an understanding support system may influence how a Person dresses, and acts. Since it's normal for Healthy individuals to not understand a Disability they cannot see often times the Person who is disabled will present an outward appearance that identifies them as being disabled. Not to gain sympathy so much as to ensure that care givers can see the level of suffering.

People are visual creatures, if we cannot see it then of course it doesn't exist. This outlook forces the Person with the disability to act, or linger on what they cannot accomplish. According to James W. Breakey. "Those who have disabilities often must contend with the effects of stigmatization. Stigma refers to an attribute, either physical or psychological, that makes a person different from others and therefore less desirable (11). Considering the stimulus that a person presents and the feedback received purely on the basis of physical appearance, it is conceivable that others' reactions to a newly disabled individual may influence how the individual perceives him- or herself. For instance, if the response is negative, the person may begin to view him- or herself as deformed, incompetent and inferior. A comparison of his or her body appearance and capability with those of others, combined with the potential effects of spread and stigmatization, may lead him to a negative body image, which also may affect his or her subjective well-being".

Accentuating The Positive: Redefining Self Image

While it's true that having a disability will define who an Individual is if the Disability is Chronic, with Counseling and a good Family support system, one can live as normal a Life as possible. What Family members and Peer groups need to understand is: As difficult as it may be for them to come to terms with the Disabled Individuals Limitations, it's even harder for the Person with the Disability.

Most Women who have come to terms with their disability will continue to dress as they normally did. We are after all first and foremost Female. When a Woman walks, assisted be it using a cane or a Walker. The first thing anyone will notice is the assisted device, but if she is appropriately dressed and confident the cane or walker does not become the focal point, nor defines who she is as an Individual. I can speak on this because I am 1. Female, and 2. I am disabled. I don't try to hide my Disability, however it does not define who I am. No one can tell that I've had five spinal cord surgeries, or that I am partially paraplegic, due to nerve damage in both legs, the Arthritis, Rheumatoid, and Osteoarthritis is not visible, and Yes I wear high heels, on the few occasions I have gone out. because I am Female and despite everything else that I have to go through on a Daily basis the number of pain pills I have to swallow, just to get out of bed, high heels shoes make me feel more feminine, I wore them prior to being disabled, and will continue to wear them. My shoes, like makeup, is to most Women, is my confidence aid.

Despite popular beliefs that Women tend to overcompensate having a Disabling condition, by paying or taking special care with their appearance. That is not the case, Women who took painstaking care of themselves and dressed a certain way, will continue to do so. Having a disability will not miraculously, cause a Woman to focus more on her appearance, however we do learn different approaches to ensuring we still feel and look feminine. Emphasizing those details we see as a positive, while downplaying those that draw attention to our Physical limitations.

The Woman Behind The Disability: "Army Wife The Toughest Job In The World"

I have a sticker that is partially visible on my Van that espouses that truth. Years of wear and weather has destroyed the sticker what remains can be likened to remnants of a life we had. A grim reminder of the cost of War. I could remove it but it serves as a reminder of the part I played as my Ex-Husband went off to war in the middle East for the second time. I remember the Day it came to me through the mail. I proudly displayed it, as a former Army Soldier and lower enlisted, I knew the consequences of serving. In 1989 I was one of the fortunate ones, obviously pregnant with our Daughter I nervously watched as my Ex-Husband loaded onto a bus that would see him deploying to the Middle East. Thirteen Years later I was well prepared to handle caring for my Daughter and myself, again alone, while my Ex-Husband went off to another war. This one came on the aftermath of the the "World Trade Center" bombing.

War has consequences some of which the Family left behind are never equipped to deal with emotionally and at times physically. Who am I however to advise anyone to try to reach a peaceful resolution. I'm really no one in particular and everyone who has ever had to send their Child or Children, their Husband, Wives, etc. Off to fight in a War not of their choosing. Who we choose to represent us as President, (presiding over) our democracy and Civil Rights is
up to us individually as well as collectively.

Patriotism is defined as a belief in the rights and Liberties of the Country an individual defines as being their home of choice. It is not a Belief in the President or Kings, or Queens; the Heads of a ruling Country it is a belief in Unity, peaceful resolution, and a belief in the rights of every individual. In essence it is a belief in Unconditional regard.

I Am by Definition An Activist

I am no one in particular and yet everyone who espouses a belief in Peace. The decision to go on to continue as we are currently is up to the individual. Each of us has that belief system we are geared from birth to think, to rationalize. Whatever your belief system whether it is grounded in prejudice or in Human rights. The decision you make regarding who you vote for is your business just as my decision to advocate for your life is a choice. I can live with my decisions, as a Veteran the question is can you live with yours and provide for your Family as indicated and defined in the constitution?

The Conservative View is one that often the poorest of the Caucasian Population holds as truth. It is the dummying down of the American Population. It isn't enough to listen to the words of those running for a position in Government. Our voting preference must be followed up by questioning and researching if what we the People are being told is truth.

So who am I? I am a Disabled Veteran, that has seen first hand the damages and aftermath of what war can bring I am a legion of People who stand for fairness for all of America. one of the 99%. To be one of the 99% means we have an obligation to getting out and voting, to make our voices heard.

Right To Privacy

All conversations and information given to your Doctor or anyone in the helping profession are confidential at no time should information be shared without you signing a release of information indicating a recipient(s).

Ethical Issues In Counseling

An individual undergoing Counseling relies on the fact that what's said in confidence will remain that way. The rules of Counseling dictates that if an individual is seen as a danger to self and others that the Counselor or Doctor must notify the proper authorities. That does not men that a Patient loses his or her right to privacy. It does however mean that the determination of capabilities will be left up to People who are qualified to diagnose problematic behavior. The Patient is still never denied his or her rights to privacy and is given notification prior to any breach of Privacy.

Videotaping or audio taping through use of cameras, cellphones, or other such devise is considered illegal and at no time as it relates to the do no harm Ethical issues in Health care should be done unless a Patient gives verbal or written consent or indicates by other legal means consent. If consent has not been given an Agency that claims as it's legal business a Health Care Facility such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or Social Security Office can be held liable for breaching privacy laws. Every Health care professional that has access to Medical records has an obligation to protecting Patients privacy.

Time Management
"We who are perpetually sick" would like you to understand when an Individual with disabling conditions think of time the saying "time is relative" takes on new meaning. Time management is scheduled around condition flare up. No matter how much time is allocated to a task, the deciding factor for completion will always be how the disabling conditions manifests themselves on a particular Day. My advice throw out the notebooks and calendars if at all possible, there are instances when of course that is impossible when it concerns minor Children who are not old enough to care for themselves. As Parents what we would perhaps force ourselves to accomplish for our Children, we relax those rules for others.

The Role The Department Of Veterans Affairs

The Department Of Veterans Affairs is often understaffed cannot process claims fast enough to satisfy the needs of the Veterans we have created. The Young People and not so young People who have been left with the impact of War rely on a smooth reliable transition. Cutting or initiating a hiring freeze for Federal Workers, specifically in the Department Of Veterans Affairs, means that our Veterans are left without continuity of care. These Men and Women who have been in service to this Great Nation deserve better. It is up to the Politicians to ensure that they do not fall within the cracks while their health and well-being hang in the balance.

Services That Are Available Through The Department Of Veterans Affairs

If you are not familiar with the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may consider it a mini Society within a Society. There are Veterans Hospitals and clinics established in every State and depending on size and Population every City, there are Services that enables a Veteran to attend School, Chapter 31for Veterans who have been determined to be Disabled having the established documented percentage rating. There is also the G.I. Bill most of us are familiar with, which does not carry a requirement of establishing the Veteran as being or having a disability, it is a service you the Veteran hopefully paid into when you enlisted your servitude to the U.S. There are still eligibility requirements to meet, however, if you were discharged from service with an "Honorable" rating chances are you are entitled to utilizing the G.I. Bill to attend School.

Eligibility For Purchasing a Home

The Home Loan Eligibility department issues a certificate that establishes you as a Veteran and your ability to purchase a home. There are a lot of speculations regarding Veterans Eligibility when it concerns Home purchase. No, we are not given preferential treatment as it concerns Interest rates, we veterans have to be in good standing credit wise in order to receive the benefits of a low-interest rate we are held to the same standards as Civilians. What Eligibility does guarantee which is a zero deposit on a new home purchase, which at times is not a guarantee depending on the Person or corporation you are purchasing from.

You Are Not Your Condition

It is important for Women to note, that you are not your Condition. There is Life after Disability, a Partner who loves you prior to or after you sustain your injury, will continue to love you unless you initiate their removal from your life. No one can endure the long-term loss of intimacy. You may come across the occasional runner, who has no idea how to handle the challenges, forgive them and move on. Their Fear and lack of caring have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their self-esteem being tied to an image.

Copyright clause: As it pertains to all written work Copyright Laws and plagiarism Laws applies cannot be copied or used in part or totality without giving credence to the Author as it stands under intellectual property laws. All pictures in my article to include Family and Friends pictures were uploaded under the free usage Laws at the time the Articles were posted to Hubpages. And as such are subject to free usage Laws. Unless otherwise indicated as far as privacy Laws were indicated. Loss of "source" information due to computer failure or transfer of articles does not negate guilt. Free upload laws apply.


Body Image: The Inner Mirror (1997). James W. Breakey, Ph.D., CP

Recent U.S. Disability Statistics from the Census Bureau - See more at


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