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What it's like to move out when you have a disability

Dec. 6, 2017
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Moving out on your own is the sort of thing that causes a range of emotions—excitement, fear, nervousness—and everyone is a little afraid to admit how they feel about it. However, the stakes are raised when you add barriers to the process. It of course varies from person to person, but when you add disability to the mix, things can venture beyond challenging and become downright frustrating.  

When I first thought about the prospect of moving out, I was 21 and extremely terrified. It didn’t help that no one in my immediate environment thought me capable of moving: from their point of view, I was lazy and wasn’t doing anything that improved my condition—like using the hand that I’ve never been able to use, for example (even though that’s not how my type of cerebral palsy works). And since I had heard this my whole life, I was also convinced I couldn’t do it. I was defeated before I ever went into battle.

Then it occurred to me: what if I just proved them wrong?

All of a sudden, moving out seemed like a real possibility for me. Was I still terrified? More than anything—but I knew that for the benefit of my health, moving out had to become a reality.  

When you’re disabled and you need daily care that requires other people, moving out feels like this quicksand-like, tumultuous process that beats the living daylights out of you. From acquiring the correct services through the right channels to finding affordable and accessible housing, it’s a lot. Once you get past those hurdles, you have to come to grips with the fact that it’s actually happening. For me, it happened over the course of a week: asking for financial aid from the county, packing and hiring movers, arranging furniture deliveries, etc.

Once the move is physically over, there’s the mental stress of the follow-ups that come with being disabled: making sure all your services move with you, changing your address with Medicaid/Medicare and SSDI (ASAP, I might add), and so on. And because all these systems are slow as molasses, it takes an inordinate amount of time to exchange all types of tedious paperwork.

Finally, there’s what I call the settle: the moment where all that is done and you’re trying to thrive. You’re trying to balance all the glasses at the same time. Right now, that’s where I am in the process. I still get help from my mom, and my sister lives in the same building as me, but I know eventually I’ll have to figure it all out.

There’s no doubt that moving out for the first time is scary and overwhelming, no matter what additional challenges you do or do not have to face. Give yourself the room and space to go a step at a time, though, and you’ll figure it out, too.