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The tiny band of adventurers was weary and footsore after crossing a vast wasteland. It had been fairly easy to bluff the zombie army into letting us through, and the guardian of the magic sword had been surprisingly friendly even though we had come to steal it. Now all that remained was to kill the dragon. I hurled my axe towards its head…

KosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 PM ET every Sunday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. There are two parts to each diary. First, a volunteer diarist will offer their specific knowledge and insight about a topic they know intimately. Then, readers are invited to comment on what they've read and/or ask general questions about disabilities, share something they've learned, tell bad jokes, post photos, or rage about the unfairness of their situation. Our only rule is to be kind; trolls will be spayed or neutered.

In real life, I’m middle-aged, fat, disabled, and often in pain. But I have something wonderful: an imagination. My mother the librarian fostered it by making sure I learned early about the wonders of books. When I had trouble getting to sleep at night, she told me to tell myself a story (I still do this!). As a teenager, I felt sorry for the rich kids down the street who wanted me for a babysitter because I didn’t need a book to spin a tale of wonder (featuring superheroes who looked surprisingly like the little boys sitting at my feet).

Stories became a career – journalism, where I spent a couple of mostly happy decades, and now technical writing, where I turn software and procedures into narratives that non-tech people can understand. But as my body has become less able, my imagination has stepped up to fill the gap in helping me stay sane and in touch with my true self.

In my mind, I’m brave and strong, the kind of woman who WOULD throw an axe at a dragon if it needed to be done. That particular scenario came from a recent gathering of friends to play Dungeons and Dragons (yes, people still play it, lots of them, and it’s fun). I also slay the minions of evil on a regular basis in the online game World of Warcraft, as a member of the DKos-related guild Wreck List, which contains some excellent and fun people, far above average in intelligence and kindness.

Games of fantasy and adventure have been around for centuries – what is chess, after all, but a stylized medieval battle? In a game, I can reconnect with some of the things that living with a disability takes away – power, beauty, strength – and with some of the qualities that can help me in “real” life – courage, empathy, strategy.

Best of all, I get to do this with other people who are on their own journeys of various kinds. It takes a team to kill a dragon, and games bring me together with smart people who share a desire for a challenge and an imaginative approach to their free time.

One cannot live in a fantasy world all the time, and I would not want to if I could. But living with a disability often means living with limits. Not only does gaming help me get through my own limits – it also helps me see the heroes and heroines in my everyday life.

What works for you? What are your escapes, your sources of strength and connection as you deal with disability in your life?

Originally posted to KosAbility on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Upcoming Schedule (11+ / 0-)

    April 7 - michelewln
    all other April dates are open - please jump in and tell us your story!

    postmodernista is the moderator of KosAbility’s diaries and maintains the schedule. If you’d like to sign up for an open Sunday, post a comment or send her a private kosmail.
    The content of the KosAbility diaries is important to many folk who depend on the exchange of information and ideas about their struggles with real life-changing conditions. The moderators of these diaries will not tolerate rude, disruptive, off topic, and/or threadjacking behavior. If in doubt, read our mission statement in the diary.

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:03:42 PM PDT

  •  great diary! (25+ / 0-)

    one of my biggest frustrations as a kid was the limit of 6 books at a time from the library. That was only 2 days worth....

    Anyone who scoffs at happiness needs to take their soul back to the factory and demand a better one. -driftglass

    by postmodernista on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:13:10 PM PDT

  •  Sometimes able-bodied folks are very dull... (8+ / 0-)

    In my opinion, having a period of solitude, particularly as a child, is almost a requirement for developing an imagination.

    Thank you for your post.

  •  Glorious was the summer when I discovered the (9+ / 0-)

    Fairybook series:  The Green Fairybook, the yellow, the blue and the violet and many other colors.  Even then, the books didn't last too long, but they made me wide open to F&SF books, and those may last the rest of my life!

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

    by weck on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 02:52:33 PM PDT

  •  I've been playing an online MMORPG since 1999. (12+ / 0-)

    My character is one of the strongest ones, and I enjoy being pretty invincible in my character, where I get to forgot about all the aches and pains in real life!

  •  sounds like SCA sorta (8+ / 0-)

    though I no longer participate in such things as my health has failed, I have turned my fascination with history into a fairly respectable collection of nonWestern edged weapons, in particular, African swords and daggers

  •  Three cheers for gaming! (8+ / 0-)

    I've been playing since I was 16 (1976) and still have my original D&D white box. Charles has been playing almost as long. It really does help me live with my own disabilities; none of my player characters has them.

    Organ donors save lives! A donor's kidney gave me my life back on 02/18/11; he lives on in me. Please talk with your family about your wish to donate.

    Why are war casualty counts "American troops" and "others" but never "human beings"?

    by Kitsap River on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 04:03:15 PM PDT

  •  I definitely agree that gaming can be a wonderful (10+ / 0-)

    distraction from 'real life'.  I too game.  A group of people come over to my place every Friday for gaming.  One Friday is GURPS(lite) that is set in just post WWII where we're British agents searching for hidden Nazi's.  The alternate Friday is D&D 2nd edition.  We're just about finished with this story line.

    The games will vary from time to time.... We've played Rifts, D&D 3rd edition, D&D 4th edition, Gurps in different genres, Star Wars, and some I'm forgetting.

    My middle niece will be turning 12 this June, I've talked with the guys and will see if she's interested in joining us.  I think it'd be good for her.  She's pretty imaginative as it is, it's the communication, strategy, group skills that would help her.

    I've used the gaming as a way to vent my frustrations with whatever is going on in the real world.  Beat the living shit out of a dragon and pretend it's the stupid boss!!  I also get to do things that I can't in the real world.

    Books were how I kept my sanity before gaming.  I still read quite a bit.  I like the Dragon Riders of Pern, Valdemar, Deynri, Wheel of Time, Recluse, etc series.  They are a complete world that is 180 from real life, somewhere I can escape to.

  •  D&d at 12 and thereafter (7+ / 0-)

    Many other RPG's as well, tabletop, online, LARP, and PC.

    My other half and I met playing VTM online, in a MIRC chatroom.

    Now I play Wizards101 with Caedy and my daughter, and an adult RPG text game online. We don't play D&D as often any longer, too hard on my son having a group of noisy people over, and it was too hard when he was younger to find a sitter for him so we could go play. So mostly we played online. I still have my original D&D character sheet however; a cleric/peasant hero, at least that's what she evolved into. I have her 53 page background still as well somewhere. The look on my DM's face when I handed him that was priceless LOL. Everyone else turned in a page or two. Not me.

    I agree, it's fun, entertaining, and a great escape for everyone, no matter the disability.

    I also read, write short stories (as my brain allows), and on the really bad days watch tv or play games like luxor or bejeweled.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 05:15:23 PM PDT

  •  D&D! (4+ / 0-)

    I love gaming. I have given up MMO gaming... kinda lost the time to devote to it and it may have been a bit unhealthy as an obsession. I never tried WoW, but maybe I will... the idea that I could game with fellow DKers is enticing.

    I have been playing Mage Knight with a friend of mine recently. Its a pretty good table top game. We also play the Resident Evil deck building game a lot, which is pretty fun.

    I haven't had a D&D session in a long time... I've kind of fallen out with the friends I used to play with. Its hard, being single and childless when all my old friends are married with children. Their lives have gone to a place where I have a hard time relating.

  •  I've noticed that a lot of disabled folks are (4+ / 0-)

    gamers.  I'm a huge video game aficionado, particularly console RPGs; a video store back in the day let me rent Final Fantasy 6 for a month (well, FF3 at the time) while I was recuperating back in middle school or late elementary school from my spinal fusions.  Yes, I've played RPGs since a young age; I played Dragon Warrior when it came out in 3rd grade and loved it ;p.

    Since I wasn't usually able to play outside like most kids (I use a wheelchair now, which has really made me more mobile since I no longer get weak like I used to), I naturally gravitated towards gaming I think.  I've seen that with other people who grow up with disabilities; it seems common.  I'm still into it now - I'm just better able to support my habit :).  I wear a Zelda: Twilight Princess lanyard for my badge at the criminal court where I do some public defender work; when I meet with some of our younger clients or clients around my age who recognize it, I think those folks are a bit more likely to open up to me if they feel they can relate; lawyers, like doctors, can often be so imposing that it's hard to get folks to share the info that we need to know in order to successfully represent them.

    I'm actually playing Skyrim today ;p.  Never have gotten into MMOs, though I've played a couple of MUDs (yeah, I'm that bad of a geek) and I always figure I'll eventually get sucked into an MMO, as RPG+Internet will do me in eventually... being a Mac user at least reduces that risk.  When I visited my friend in Alaska (Wasilla, lol - seriously), she tried to suck me into Star Wars: The Old Republic, and it was a lot of fun, but without a Mac port, she didn't have a chance. ;p  But with Final Fantasy 14's re-release and the new Elder Scrolls MMO both coming soon, I figure that my ability to abstain may eventually fail me :).

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 09:45:28 PM PDT

  •  Have MS, Will Travel (0+ / 0-)

    I am "disabled" - physically, at any rate.  My MS got to the point where I had to give up my business of 30 years (I taught people how to use their computers and how to design and develop database applications).  It was a tough choice, but then something strange and somewhat miraculous happened - the company my hubby worked for went out of business after 150 years.  This was January of 2009 (great timing, eh?).  At the ripe young age of 62, no one seemed interested in hiring him.

    Now, one would think panic would set in, however that has never been our way in life.  We set about finishing up the last touches of repair work on our old house, put it on the market for as high a price as we could imagine (thinking it would be a year before we could sell it), and set about putting our Plan B into action.  Surprisingly, the house sold in two weeks at close to what we asked.  Off to Plan B we went.

    Even though I had to sit while everyone around me was building, packing, and moving, I knew that what was to come next would keep life looking pretty darn good.  You see, we now officially live life on the road.  My wonderful hubby and I have always taken pictures - it's how we met (I was a professional photographer who occasionally helped out at my friend's photo lab.  My hubby was a regular customer....and, as it turned out, my soulmate).  

    We always dreamed of being able to travel and shoot, but with two young'un's, life took over and we became a typical  family instead.  Breakfasts, lunches, dinners, homework, baths, sleep...do it again.  I have to admit, we did it with a sense of humor, a great deal of love, and a lot of fun!  Somehow we got our two into and through college when the proverbial stuff hit the proverbial...you know.  Phew!

    That left us free to hit the road.  

    How do I live with my disability, this diary asks?  I have the comfiest recliner in the world - I live in it about 80% of my time (MS actually is quite sucky disease), but at least I have the best and ever changing views out my windows.  And on those days when I can, I am out taking pictures of this beautiful country, on my electric bicycle, or in our inflatable kayak with the man I love, living life to the fullest.

    I am disabled, true.  I live in pain everyday.  But I'm not dead yet.  And as long as there are pretty trees and sunsets, I will be smiling through it all.  'Cuz it's just how it is.

    Let's not let the dishonorable few make the rest of us slaves to their insanity.

    by issy on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:08:49 PM PDT

    •  What a wonderful outlook (0+ / 0-)

      MS is indeed a sucky disease. And it sounds like you have an excellent partner and a very good attitude to help you get through the less-awesome days.

      •  Thank you! (0+ / 0-)

        I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people on the planet.  There are many who have it way worse than I do and my heart goes out to them.  I wish everyone could have the love I have experienced.  It's the greatest anti-depressant!  Plus, I get to see all of his amazing photographs!  

        I am no longer able to do the computer thing, but I sure would love to get a good website set up for the pictures we have.  Any ideas, you wonderful Kossacks?!

        Let's not let the dishonorable few make the rest of us slaves to their insanity.

        by issy on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 10:41:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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