Very recently, someone told me in a roundabout way that I have a chip on my shoulder regarding requiring assistance from others. After being shocked and slightly mortified by this thought, I started to think this might in fact be true. What I decide to do about that chip, whether to ditch it all together or only use it as a fashion accessory when strictly necessary, will only come with time.
Everyone needs help with some things sometimes, but as it comes to needing something specifically because of my blindness, I hate being at the mercy of someone else. Whether it’s reading a restaurant menu, filling out a medical form, using the convenience of a car rather than a long complicated bus route, or voting (hopefully next week’s blog post). Requesting assistance with this feels so much like I am less complete, less whole of a person, that I find myself instantly on the defensive when I am required to ask for help for things like a computer not working properly, for directions to the bank, or other things that everyone needs help with sometimes. My default mode has been “FIGHT!” for so long – fighting for education, employment, and (thankfully rarely) access challenges with my guide dog, that perhaps I don’t know how to simply just… well, to just be. But I don’t want to go so far the other way, to expect people to do things for me that I am more than capable of doing for myself. I fight that stereotype all the time, too, that I am not capable because I cannot see.
Some of these fights are external and necessary; they make us stronger, and (hopefully) educate a public who doesn’t know what to do with us, and help pave the way for those who come behind us. Some of these fights are internal and necessary; am I, as a woman, doing all I can to be happy, healthy, productive, learning new skills and enjoying my life? But a constant defensiveness doesn’t help anyone either; in fact, it alienates the very people we are trying to reach. Asking for help is not, in and of itself, a sign of weakness… And yet… I still feel this way, and probably a little piece of me always will. But my sword is being shelved for a while, because fighting myself under the guise of fighting against others is probably more exhausting than just being me. To those I have hurt in this way, please let me know; we may not agree, and that’s OK, but I want to be viewed as a woman (not a blind woman); I crave acceptance alongside my autonomy, and may need your help to get there. Perhaps I should take my own advice in a previous post: be quick to listen, slow to speak harshly, and keep an open mind.