Denial: negative or positive

When denial is applied in a psychological sense it is the failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion. When we are faced with something hurtful in our lives escaping into denial often happens naturally. I pose this interesting thought; was it positive to exercise denial when thinking about my cerebral palsy? Much of my upbringing included the belief I could do anything I set my mind to. If I worked hard enough I could play and participate in activities just like other kids. I was told I could be anything when I grew up. I took that to mean the possibilities for career success were limitless. There was very little discussion about the limitations I would experience with cerebral palsy or talk about dealing with those challenges.

The denial of my limitations had me participating in many activities as I grew. My parents encouraged me to participate in anything I found interesting. There was fearlessness in me, I would fall down and hurt myself but get right back up and keep trying. Confronting the challenge of participating in the face of cerebral palsy became a passion. The denial of my physical challenges along with a never give up attitude was instilled from a young age. These qualities helped me gain the courage to learn how to ski, play golf, and ride a bike. All of these activities were not on my list months after birth like they would be for other children. The problem became what to do when life got more complicated…

While in school there were many support systems in place to help children like me succeed. There were special education programs where I was given extra time to study, take tests, and provided a note taker in my classes. Even when attending college I experienced similar modes of support. Someone took notes in class for me and I was provided extra time for test taking. The realm of academia has many ways to support those of us with a wide variety of disabilities. Colleges and universities have entire departments dedicated to helping us succeed. The problem is, it can give us a false sense of security and perpetuate denial.

After graduating from college and journeying out into the work force I found little support for my limitations. The belief I could do or be anything I wanted was given pause. What I found was there aren’t people to take notes for me in meetings and I don’t get extra time to accomplish tasks. Not being able to write or type as quickly meant I struggled keeping up with the daily work. It became increasingly frustrating. Coworkers without physical limitations were given more responsibility. It may not have been because they were smarter but because they could accomplish things more quickly. As much as I was told I could do anything in life I found it untrue because of physical limitations. It felt as though the possibilities of career success were being pulled out from under me. We do seem to live in a world driven by the bottom line. It seems difficult for companies to hire people for good paying jobs who struggle with a disability.

Living much of my life in the denial of limitation has been a blessing along with a curse. It has given me the ability to push fear to the side participating in sports and physical activities that bring me joy. It has been a curse because I have struggled to find a purposeful career that takes my limitations into consideration. I haven’t had the physical ability to participate in a career I’ve encountered so far. The curse of denial lead to a lack of time spent early in life exploring the opportunities I could find success and fulfillment in. There seem to be two sides of denial. Denial can be both negative and positive providing us both a blessing and a curse.

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