Today was… well incredible. I was asked a few weeks ago, to be a guest speaker for the Disability Advocate of Kent County’s fundraiser luncheon today. To be completely honest, I was a little hesitant – as public speaking is really not my forte, but I accepted it. After all, my experience with them definitely helped bring me to the place I am today. So instead of going through the motions of writing out a new version of my speech today, I am just going to continue this blog post with my actual speech from the luncheon today (with minor edits for privacy sake).
Hello everyone, my name is Jane Ridgewood and I would like to start this off by saying thank you to Disability Advocates of Kent County. Without your services I truly don’t know where I would be at this moment, it’s an absolute honor to be able to stand here in support of all of you right now.
I would like to share a little piece of my story with all of you. Prior to my experience with Disability Advocates, I was, like many around us, one who suffered from severe depression and anxiety. I often found myself preferring to sleep all day avoiding running into others I lived with. They hadn’t done anything wrong; I just was feeling too anxious to be around even those closest to me. This included friends. Despite how much time I spent with them, I would always feel that inner bubble of anxiety rise up inside of me. It would feel as though my throat was trying to close up and a sense of nausea would wash over me. On top of that, I always felt inferior around others. Like I didn’t matter and was a waste of space.
People had often told me how much potential I had and I couldn’t believe them. I used to think quite harshly of myself. There were never any positive notes to think. No encouraging words to myself as simple as, “I can do this”. It was all pretty negative, which put me in a dark and lonely place. I spent more time hiding in my bedroom than anywhere else. Avoiding others had become a fulltime job. My depression left me to feel achy and tired constantly. As much as I wanted to do certain things, I felt no inner motivation to actually get up and do them.
It was one day though, that it dawned on me. How I was feeling wasn’t right. How I was behaving towards myself, wasn’t healthy. I feel so fortunate to have come to that conclusion and even more fortunate that my next move brought me into connection with Disability Advocates. You see, upon my realization I turned to my father whom I live with. I was able to muster up the strength to admit I needed help. From there, my father reached out to those he knew. I was able to start seeing someone to talk to and even further, I was able to be introduced to the lovely Denise B. by a mutual friend in the process of seeking help.
At that first meeting with Denise, I felt as if I was talking to someone who understood my language. She may not have gone through the same things as me – but she got it. She got me. It was, refreshing. I was able to share three big goals I had for myself at that time, get my license, my GED and a job. I craved each of those things badly, but still had no inner motivation to truly try for them. I let myself use my disabilities as a crutch not to progress. When our first meeting had wrapped up, Denise encouraged me to attend the Skills Exploration Workshop class she teaches, that Disability Advocates put together.
Upon arriving to that first class I was feeling a little apprehensive. My anxiety was doing its best to creep up and all I could do was slink my way in and take a seat, alone. I kept telling myself it was important, I needed to be here. I also told myself, it was a five week course and I only had to show up one day out of each week. However, by the end of even that first class I attended I felt something spark inside of me. I felt something that I had never really felt before, a sort of “I can do this” moment… but it wasn’t with doubt. It was with an actual positive feeling attached to it. I was able to meet others with disabilities as well, and while class-wide there was a variety, it was as if I stepped into a place where we all spoke the same language. It didn’t matter where anyone came from or what anyone did, that class was a safe haven for all of us. It was a place where we could learn and support one another.
As much as I did learn about seeking job opportunities and focusing on my skills and rights on the workforce, I learned a lot about myself as well in those short five weeks. I learned that not only can I be around others – I can do things. I found something in myself that I had needed all along, that self-motivation I required. I truly walked into that first class feeling as though I was a shell of a person and by the time I walked out of the last, I was not only socializing with my classmates, but with others around me. I was finding a piece of self-confidence and I was feeling as though I could really do something with my life. Because of one class that Disability Advocates provides, I was able to find a spark of life in myself. It was a spark that craved me to live, to get out and to truly, finally go do what I’d been saying I wanted to do for so long.
People around me began to see something that they hadn’t in quite a while, a smile on my face. There was a sincerely chipper outlook on the big picture of my life suddenly. So I continued on my journey to wellness after I finished the five week course. A journey in which I am happy to say, that this past January I finally obtained my driver’s license. I also got over a personal anxiety with riding the city bus, and not only am I attending a GED Preparation Program, but I am also looking forward to starting my new job within the next few weeks.
Every morning that I wake up now, I breathe. I smile and I face a new day – granted, with a cup of coffee in hand, but I do it. I am getting out there. I honestly believe if it had not been for the assistance I received from this organization, I would not be able to stand here in front of all of you today. To show you a living example of someone who could break through what was holding her back. To be able to stand here and thank these wonderful people who make such positive effects on the lives of others. Who aid and assist to the best of their abilities and who teach those of us who need to learn the lessons, that yes we are worth living and yes, we can live life in spite of our disabilities.
I could sit here and ramble out all the details of how I journeyed on and accomplished these things, but for the sake of time I just want to say again, thank you to Disability Advocates of Kent County. This organization provides so much support and care for those who need it. It’s not easy going through life when you have something that puts a disadvantage to daily living. After all, like in my case, can you imagine ever having a panic attack at just the mere thought of leaving the house? Thanks to this wonderful organization I was able to attend a class that taught me so much more than the subject material. It was just five weeks, but it was five very powerful and impacting weeks that I am so grateful to have had in my life. It was a real stepping stone for me to be able to progress as a person and to break free from my shell of depression and anxiety.
Thank you all very much for your time and again, thank you to Disability Advocates of Kent County for all that you do for others.
There we go! That’s exactly what I wrote and said today at the luncheon. I had a lot of people tell me that I should be proud of myself, that I inspired them and I even had one lady give me a hug. She admitted with didn’t know each other, but she ‘couldn’t not hug me’. I hope you all have a blessed day and if you would like to learn more about Disability Advocates of Kent County, I definitely encourage you to check out their website – disabilityadvocates.us