I knew before I even started watching Employable Me on BBC2 last night that I would be in tears by the end. I found Andy’s story in particular, painfully close to home. Andy’s desperate need to be seen as a person in his own right and to be validated for the skills he still has to offer strongly resonated with me.
One of the most difficult things to overcome following a serious incident like Andy’s stroke is the loss of your identity. Your sense of self is given a short, sharp shock that shakes up everything that you thought you knew about yourself. The way that people view you amplifies this feeling. How can you be seen as an individual if people need to categorise you? How can you be a warrior when people see you as a victim?
It has taken me until now to be able to recognise how lost I felt following the accident. My self identity was defined by my mobility, my verbal dexterity and independence, so being robbed of those things left me bereft. I honestly thought that I had nothing to offer anyone either as a friend or a colleague. I was certain that nobody would want to employ me again.
I am now going through a recalibration of what it means to be me. I don’t imagine this will be quick and it is largely an internal process, but it is greatly helped when externally validated by other people.
All people, not just people with disabilities, need to be recognised for the things that make them amazing individuals. If you know somebody that is good at something – tell them today. It may well make all the difference to the way they see themselves. If nothing else, their view can only be improved when reflected in the glow of your genuine admiration.