When most of us hear the word limitation, we think of something negative. In our society, a limitation is often thought of as a barrier or blockade, something that prevents us from achieving our full potential and the cookie cutter idea of what it means to have success. Limitations are to be overcome and avoided at all costs, and as children and adults most of us fear the idea of something holding us back. For most of my life, I too shared in this understanding and clung tightly to this value at all costs.
As a child and young adult with NVLD, everyone around me in an act of love, good faith (and maybe miseducation) tried to pretend my diagnosis was not there. I received encouragement that I could do anything I set my mind to, and that with the right help, I could achieve anything anyone else could. I was told that I wasn’t really “that disabled” or “different,” and that the only true barrier was myself and the limiting mindset I chose to have along the way.
Though the intention of this was to help me feel accepted and “normal,” I realize now the impact was the deep internalization of an endless stream of self-blame, guilt and insecurity. If the implications of the diagnosis did not cause me to fail or struggle, then what did? If there wasn’t truly a barrier to engaging in the neurotypical world, then why couldn’t I? The focus during my most important developmental years shifted from the lack of accessibility around me to my own perceived shortcomings as a person.
The reality of my life is that there were and still are things that I simply cannot do despite my passion and desire to do them. While I have been so fortunate to have access to resources that have helped me along the way, there are ways that I am and will always be recognizably different. I am now on an ongoing journey of learning to embrace that as something beautiful.
Rather than using all my time and energy to prove to myself and the world around me in a boundary-less way that I can do everything everyone else can, I have instead started to focus on what is realistic and practical for me and my unique needs. I am redefining limitations from something bad to something positive, something essential to informing my own definition of self-love and success.
Gabriela is a social work professional, working and living with NVLD. She is passionate about social justice, community connection and the human experience. Her journey with NVLD was once focused solely on her challenges and failures, but has now transformed into a lifelong experience of healing and self-acceptance. Gabriela is a Project Social Ambassador for The NVLD Project.