Living With A Disability - Abrielle McCollom
Note: This is an old interview so the interviewee has either gotten older, married, name or career change, and has children.
What is your name?
How old are you?
I am 24 years old.
Where are you from? (State only)
I am from the state of Ohio.
What type of disability do you have?
I have Right Spastic Hemiplegia Cerebral Palsy, Complex Partial Epilepsy, and Scoliosis.
When were you diagnosed/told? How did you handle knowing?
I was told by my mom that she got into a car accident while pregnant with me. Afterward, I suffered from an in utero stroke. By the time of delivery, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck and I had Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when I was 9 months old. At the age of two, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. My father actually told me that I had my first seizure with him. As far as Scoliosis is concerned, I was diagnosed at 17 years old. I went in for a routine neurological exam and my neurologist told me I had Scoliosis. I didn’t think too much about my Cerebral Palsy. For the most part, I mostly ignored that side of my body. Of course, I had trouble performing certain tasks but I knew I was fully capable of getting them done. Epilepsy and Scoliosis were other problems. I was seizure-free for most of my childhood. As a result, my doctor decided to take me off my medications. Bad idea! As time progressed, I started noticing changes in the way I was feeling. It made me scared and anxious. I was always on guard. That’s when I discovered I was still having seizures. Scoliosis was something that I had to learn about. I didn’t know exactly what it entailed. Now, I am going on a journey to find out what the next treatments are for me. Overall, I handle my medical conditions pretty well. I consider myself a diamond.
Was depression a problem? If so, how’d you overcome it?
Depression wasn’t a problem with me.
What limitations does your disability place on you?
My form of Cerebral Palsy affects the entire right side of my body. I do not have the ability to move my fingers, wrist, hand, toes, foot, or ankle. It takes a lot of effort. Regarding my Epilepsy, I have freedom but I have to be watched at times because I am prone to having frequent mini seizures.
How did your peers and family handle your disability?
My family handled my disability wonderfully. They are a bit protective of me because I have a chronic medical condition that affects the awareness of my surroundings. Other than that, they do not treat me any differently than the rest of my family members. My friends that I have the closest relationships with, accept me and are very supportive of my dreams and aspirations in life. Those people that didn’t know me, teased me because of my disability. They mocked the way I walked, the way I held my hand, I even had things thrown at me. It didn’t make me feel included. I felt like an outsider. A loner. I am thankful though for those people that have gotten to know the real me.
How has your disability affected daily activities?
I do most of my activities of daily living by myself. The activities that are the most challenging are washing, blow-drying, and curling my hair. That is something that I am aiming toward learning how to do. Also, cooking one-handedly with regular equipment. I am currently in the process of finding equipment to use that caters to people who are not ambidextrous.
Are you employed? If so, how does your disability affect your job? Are there any accommodations?
I am an entrepreneur. I am the owner and blogger of Staring In The Stars. It’s a website in which I share my personal experiences living with Cerebral Palsy, Epilepsy, and Scoliosis. I go on paid interviews and write pieces delivering information about the causes that I support for various organizations. In addition, I motivate the disabled community to go after their dreams and deliver news and resources on how to live independently. I am going to school to study Speech and Hearing. By doing this, it has motivated me to become a licensed speech-language pathologist and to continue to make a difference in the disabled community. I have truly found my passion in life.
Tell me about the biggest obstacle you face having a disability?
The biggest obstacle that I have faced having a disability is discrimination and ableism. Being told that because you have a disability, you are not capable of accomplishing certain goals that you set for yourself is hurtful to hear. That type of thinking can influence someone else. They will begin to think that way. That’s not right. Always have a positive mindset about yourself. I have accomplished everything that I wanted to. I am extremely proud of myself. I always say appreciate the negative people because they have paved the way for your success. Prove them wrong.
Do you drive? Were you worried that you wouldn’t be able to, or do you want to learn?
Yes, I do drive. I wasn’t worried about not being able to drive. I knew I was fully capable of driving. I just needed to get my health back on track first.
What is something that you hope gets better for the disabled community?
Something that I hope gets better for the disabled community is that I hope that we become more accepted and stop the stigmas that go along with it. We are people. We want the same things in life. We are going after the same goals. With constant awareness and advocating, we will eventually get there. It will definitely take some time though. Anything is possible if we put forth the effort and go after it.
A quote or saying that keeps you motivated. Why?
I have so many expressions that I use to keep myself motivated. If I had to choose one, I would say it is the phrase, “Be proud. Be fearless. Be strong.” I have been through so much in my life and so many heartaches. By saying this to myself, it keeps my self-esteem up.