woman on her side in bed

Listen to me read the below here:


I began to think about the relationship between disability and confidence while visiting New York last fall for a friend’s wedding. I’d realized on the flight from San Francisco that who I am now bears little resemblance to who I was before I got sick. This is not to say that I was without insecurities, which would be a flat-out falsehood. I mean that I was capable of more extroversion; I exuded a particular confidence that could look like extroversion. I could chat up strangers at a party, laugh, swan around in a giant faux fur coat, walk into a quiet room and ask, “Why isn’t anyone talking?”

What happened is that my body started to fail me. I started to spend more time alone. I stopped being able to go out at night, which limited the capabilities of my social life. Worst of all, becoming disabled stripped me of my confidence. Confidence can be closely tied to capability, and over the last four years, I have lost much of my capability. Days of being unable to sit up without help, of stumbling down the hall to the bathroom on weak legs, are disheartening. Being repeatedly disheartened wears a person down.

books in bed

At times, I see that old self flash through. On a night when I was feeling well enough to go out to dinner, I told the waitress that she was absolutely gorgeous. Because everyone at the wedding I attended only knew me before I fell ill, I tried to recreate that person as best as I could, chatting and low-key flirting and joking until I departed the reception before the meal came, and by the time I got back to my friend’s apartment I was too weak to talk.

The next day, M and I went to see Hamilton on Broadway. We were extremely fortunate to have tickets for the show, which I’d been obsessed with for months, but although we avoided the subway and caught a cab straight to the Rodgers Theater, I was still worn out from the night before. In fact, I was so diminished that I can’t remember the performance. When I saw “Alexander Hamilton” performed at the Grammys, I didn’t recognize any of it. I’m embarrassed to say this even as I know that it’s not my fault.

If disability and illness have weakened my confidence, there surely must be an antidote–so I tell myself. Do I depend on the hope of remission to bring back that old boldness, or do I look to something else? What is that something else?