Choose to See What You Want to See

This week, I want to start with two statements and a question.

First statement:

I’m a person with a physical disability. Due to my physical disability, I’m ventilator-dependent. Also, I have 24/7 care, including any time I go out. My voice is often hard to understand, but I try to communicate clearly. Last but not least, my powered wheelchair is really heavy and wide. People usually tell me I’m inspiring, brave, and strong just because I’m still alive and go to places and events.

Second statement:

I’m about six feet tall. I have a beard, shaved head, glasses, and eyes that naturally change colour. I also have eight tattoos. For work, I write a weekly column on Ottawa Life Magazine’s website. My hobbies and interests include listening to music, watching movies and TV, chatting and spending time with friends, and meeting new people. Many have said I’m funny, intelligent, genuine, and kind.

How do YOU CHOOSE to see me?

Both statements are factual.

However, one tends to stick out more than the other. I’m referring to the first statement.

It often feels like no matter what I do or say; most people are going to see me as a person with a physical disability whenever I go out and even on social media.

The same thing also happens when it comes to our healthcare system.

Last week, I went to see my doctor, and I mentioned that I’d like to be assessed for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Both fall under the umbrella of being neurodivergent.

​​Unfortunately, but yet not surprisingly, my doctor said no.

This was after reminding them I have severe anxiety and I also have symptoms of ADHD. As weird as it sounds, I have a hard time sitting still even though I’m physically disabled.

Other symptoms I experience are being easily distracted, impulsive and risk-taking, focusing, feeling restless, and having problems coping with stress.

Another reason my doctor said no is that he didn’t want me to pay out of pocket for the assessment. While I appreciate his concern, I’m fully aware that I’d need to pay for the assessment out of pocket.

I didn’t just roll into his office and suddenly decide to ask for an assessment out of boredom. This was a tough decision, and I took time to research and talk to some of my friends.

I want to be the best version of myself and access better services and support.

His answer was no, and instead, he is choosing to increase the dosage of my anxiety medication.

Why listen to your patients when it’s so easy just to write a prescription and hope they and their issues go away?

During my appointment, he asked me if I had made an appointment with a therapist. Almost two months ago, I had a consult with Family Services of Ottawa (FSO). At that time, I was told there was a six-month waiting list.

With that in mind, I have four months to wait to see someone, but theoretically, I’ll be less anxious.

Something doesn’t seem to add up, but what do I know?

On my way out, I was given a questionnaire to fill out. It took me less than ten minutes to fill it out, and I finished it before my Para Transpo ride showed up.

All of the questions were related to anxiety and mental health.

Spoiler alert:

My answers were the highest or near the highest levels possible, and I didn’t exaggerate or embellish any of the answers.

I was feeling frustrated about my appointment, and I still am.

I felt like he was dismissing my concerns, as well as my mental health.

As far as feeling dismissed, this is an ongoing issue, not just for people with disabilities. Our streets are filled with people who have slipped through the cracks. Your neighbour could be someone who has fallen through the cracks but is somehow still able to manage, at least on the surface. In other words, they are masking.

Our healthcare system has failed us.

Instead of helping those who need help, we have a system that chews us up and spits us out.

Many people end up self-medicating in different ways or worse.

In my case, I hope that increasing my medication will help me, but there could also be an increase in the side effects, which, along with waiting to see a therapist, will cause me more anxiety.

I’m just a person with a disability who is inspiring and brave.

Why get to know the real me when it’s so easy just to stare at me and my wheelchair and judge me?

What do I know?

Until next week, stay safe and keep on rolling.