My awareness of myself is something I find hard to put into words as for the most part I don't think of myself as being 'disabled'. I use a wheelchair, true, but I have always had a chair of one sort or another so that is 'normal' for me. I cannot always do things/go places that my non-wheelchair-using friends can, but once again it is 'normal' for me.
I have never known what it is like to be physically able. My life, as it is now, is as ordinary to me as yours is to you. The inference that I am 'brave' simply because I do 'ordinary' things on my own (i.e. "unsupervised") like the weekly shopping or going to the Library, actually implies that my life is somehow inferior to the person who has made the comment. Believe me, my life is as full of disappointments and heartaches along with successes and achievements as the next person's! They're just slightly different, as befits different people.
I am regularly being informed by friends that my move out of residential care to a bungalow of my own was something out of the ordinary, but the way I see it, I was just getting on and doing something about my dissatisfaction rather than just moaning about it. The fact that I had more hurdles to jump over is just part of life for me.
Although I know I have a disability, most of the time I do not focus on it. I ignore it in much the same way that a person with, say, curly ginger hair would accept the colour of their hai r and just get on with life.
This doesn't mean I don't wish I could do certain things, I do.
I remember vividly the envy I felt towards my sister on one occasion that she went out in the evening while I was on holiday from school. I really wished I could go with her, but I knew that Dad would insist on coming to the disco too, as my chaperone and that his presence would ruin things for both of us so I didn't do anything about it.
Another instance where I found myself wishing my body was capable of doing something it isn't able to do occurred at university. A group of us were putting on a show and someone suggested a dance-based event. My friend clearly had not remembered my wheels when she made the suggestion and was totally unaware that one thing I really would like to do is to dance on my feet. It really hurt.
These and a few other isolated occasions aside, the only time I feel disabled is when I am in my manual chair. Then I am completely dependant on others for all my mobility needs. I feel totally helpless, and, to use a completely un-politically correct expression, I feel "spastic".
My perception of myself is completely different when I am in my manual chair to that when I am in my electric chair. When I am in my electric chair I am totally independent - or that is what I feel, anyway.
My non-disabled friends get so used to me being able to move out of their way that when I am suddenly in my manual chair they find it as odd as I do (although in a very different way).