Two of my earliest memories are running around the house in princess costumes, and stomping in the mud, despite my mother’s
disapproval. I grew up with a heavy dose of DisneyTM magic and 80’s Brat Pack sarcasm. I also grew up living with Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus. I could recite my medical history by the time I hit middle school, and had a knack for forgetting about my scars until I saw them in the mirror. My family made it very clear to me from the beginning that my hopes and dreams didn’t have to be any different than any other kid my age. As I got older, some of that wasn’t totally accurate. This became abundantly clear when my friends started having crushes and dating.
Fun fact: When boys in your grade call you not-great names and make it known they do not like you as a person, they are equally as unlikely to like you as a prospective girlfriend. Who knew?! Dating as a teenager is tough. Dating as a teenager with a disability is the worst. I used to think the world was playing some weird prank on me. Anyone who did show an interest in me knew nothing about anything. Spina what? Wait…you have a hole in your back? We were off to a great start. I would go with the flow, and focus on school and friends instead of worrying about finding romance.
I was, and still am, willing to answer any questions people have about my disabilities. I respect when people are curious, and advocate for them to think of people in different ways. However, as I navigated dating in college – and later as an adult – I no longer found it necessary to start by explaining myself. We’re all humans. Some of us just have a more extensive medical record than others.
In terms of dating, I’ve had a few hits and misses – some terrible first dates and some even worse second dates. Because of my unique circumstances, I’ve had to navigate awkward conversations when it comes to being intimate, but aren’t those conversations usually awkward at first? There’s a lot of anxiety and preparation that can go into those moments – for safety and hygiene reasons – and there are not a lot of people into that.
As the years pass, I become more confident in what I want and don’t want in a relationship. I care less about the physical shell of a person and more about the personality housed inside it. I like to think it’s because I value when someone feels the same about me. I have a few scars, but my personality is solid. As my third grade teacher wrote on my report card, I am a joy to be around.
And yes, I ended up finding someone. He is one of the strongest and kindest people I know. I told him I liked him, and he told me he liked me back.
He would never, in a million years, dream of thinking anything differently of me, and he takes all of my embarrassing accidents and moments in stride. He makes me believe that maybe my family was right. You can have the same hopes and dreams as those who don’t have disabilities. They just may take a little extra magic.
Austyn Blais is a mental health advocate and proud dog mom who works at SNHU in order to fund her love of travel.
Welcome to the newly renamed and redesigned Disability RAPP. The themes explored in each issue, like this issues’ focus on the intersection of disability and sexuality, inform us and empower us to break barriers and challenge traditional ideas of what it means to live with a disability. We updated the Disability RAPP design to be more accessible in both its print and digital formats.
Certain content contains sensitive material which may not be appropriate for all readers.
DRC-NH, in collaboration with the UNH Institute on Disability and the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, distribute a quarterly RAP sheet to educate community members and policy makers about the latest research, policy, practice, and advocacy issues affecting individuals with disabilities and their families.