Monday, January 29, 2007

Hypertension 31: Disability Lite

I feel guilty.

Guilt has bothering me since I wrote a post comparing my disability with other disabilities when I wrote about workplace issues. Also, it bothered me after writing a post about having Hypertension and how awful it was (well, actually, all the posts are about that!). Most recently the guilt reached a peak as I started to read other blogs and websites which have disabilities as their main focus.

The disability I have, compared with many others, is "Disability Lite".

Although Hypertension can be extremely serious, it is still Disability Lite when placed in the context of many other disabilities.

Shall I be explicit?:

1. If I'm careful, it won't kill me or further disable me. Some disabilities leave you with no choices--unless a miracle occurs, they progressively lead to worsening impacts on your body, until you croak. With Hypertension, you can manage, to a large degree, the course of the disability. Dieting, exercise and medication will normally bring your blood pressure down to a reasonable level. Many disabilities do not come with such options. You can not modify or 'cure' them by living a healthier life. Which leads me to:

2. If you have Hypertension, you have a chance to 'cure' it. Through a combination of medications and life style changes there is the real possibility you can reduce your blood pressure readings to "normal" levels. Probably nine times out of ten--sometimes genetics gets in the way. But there is almost always some hope that one day the disability will be a memory. With many other disabilities, there is no cure. You're stuck with it, you must learn to live with it. Which leads me to:

3. If you can't cure it, at least you can manage the degree of the negative impact on you, avoiding the worst case scenarios. If you have a serious sight impairment that renders you blind, there may be no way for you to regain your sight. A mobility impairment that prevents you from using your legs may leave you with no chance to improve your situation. At least with Hypertension, you can often modify the impact, reducing the worst aspects and dangers. Which leads me to:

4. The day to day impact of Hypertension is manageable, even with the medications. Yes, at times, the impact of the meds is extreme, but you can at least change the meds and hope to find one that won't make you sleep half the day. But sleeping a lot, feeling weak most of the time, ain't nearly as bad as screeching bad migraines or the abrupt loss of certain bodily functions, or even being unable to get out of bed--either by yourself, or at all.

One further interesting point. Many individuals who have specific disabilities are part of a larger community of other people with such disabilities. At times, unique and rewarding cultures are formed--I am thinking in particular of the deaf community. It is not an issue of shared experience, really, but of the disability creating an entirely different way of looking at and experiencing life.

With Hypertension, forget it. Getting together a community around blood pressure patients is like trying to organize the unemployed (which I once spent a few years trying to do). It is impossible to organize the unemployed to protect inequities because, a) unemployed people (like those with high blood pressure) do not want to be identified as being unemployed people, and therefore reject the notion of them being in a community... and b) unemployed people are "temporary"--they are unemployed today but when they get a job tomorrow, they're outta here. It is no different with a Hypertension patient who manages to get his or her blood pressure readings down to "normal"... and c) Hypertension patients see no value whatsoever in having high blood pressure, and unemployed people also see no value at all in being out of work.

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