In those hard days in intensive care, one ayah from the Quran encouraged me: “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give GOOD TIDINGS to the patient…”
I found strength in myself after that moment. I was disconnected from an artificial respirator 10-15 days later and started a new life. I could not go outside for 8-9 months. When I went out in my wheelchair for the first time, I felt happy like a liberated prisoner. Gradually, I started going out in the community and public places.
My first observation was how people looked more attentively at me. Later, there were those who would perceived me to be a beggar and approached me to give money. I saw people who pulled their earlobes as a sign of self-protection and said “God forbid.” At first I had reacted aggressively and irritably, but later found a way out. Now when I come across similar behavior, I either ignore it or explain to them that what they are doing is wrong. The best thing I can do is to use the public transport as much as possible so that the eye-staring diminishes as the public becomes used to what they see. For instance, in hot weather in the Ahmedly settlement of Baku, where I live, people from the nearby buildings come to the stadium to rest, walk and have a good time. I also go there to spend time with friends.
At the beginning I could see the pity in the eyes of people staring at me. One or two weeks later their eyes got used to me. Now I do not feel like the center of attention, as if on the red carpet like celebrities. I have come to conclusion that society needs to be actively supported in adapting both visually and physically to the existence of disabled people. Unfortunately, Azerbaijani disabled people do not do it. A number of natural and artificial reasons stand behind it. The main cause of the natural reason is a weak and troubled mental and psychological situation. This factor is nurtured by the society’s own “disability”; the society that has not evolved yet, with a violating stigmatization of disabled people. As a consequence disabled people develop an inferiority complex and refuse to go out into the society. This process results in a severe psychological trauma.
The artificial factor is the inclination of the society to unhealthy habits which is inherited on a genetic and social level and more strongly manifests in disabled people. The list can be extended further. However, this would mean grumbling, reconciling with the events that happened, and being defeated. This type of behavior and thinking should be prevented and an inflammation of the souls of many of us should be healed. Basically, we should strengthen our spirit. The best way to do this is through communication. Communication is as vital as water and air to our very existence. Communication affects the dynamics and display of psychological processes and makes them more active. Indeed, psychological researches show that people’s personality change with communication. Their all-round and harmonious development becomes possible through communication. They acquire a position in society, have a social role, learn life practices and essential norms of conduct and behavior, and strive to influence their surroundings.
On top of everything, the most distorted social area in Azerbaijan is public awareness. Public awareness should begin from kindergarten. Both parents and teachers play a significant role in this process. Children should be clearly taught in childhood that there are disabled people together with enabled people in the society.
It is just one part of the topic and it will be continued. Let’s not forget that our minds control our body. Though I have lost my physical health, thankfully, I have not lost my mind. I do not think I am disabled. I believe everything will be alright. You, too, shall believe and change your thoughts and opinions!
P.S. I accept the words “disability” and “physical restriction,” but find offensive the words “physically defected” (meaning flawed, faulty, deficiency, imperfect) and “cripple” (invalid).