Charlie Carr, part 02 of 19: “Life in an Institution”
What was life like living in an institution?
Charlie Carr, Boston, Massachusetts It was an incredibly huge shock because my
disability was traumatic. What happened to me was I had a spinal cord injury as the result
of a diving accident, so I went from being a non-disabled person, not having any background
or knowledge of disability, to becoming instantly paralyzed and a person with a disability.
So for me there was a huge denial factor going on that for someone who might have a congenital
disability might not be as much of an issue. I was devastated and so when I put into an
institution and I went into this segregated high school I was very angry because I couldn’t
be with my peers at the local high school. But when I went there and I saw all these
people in wheelchairs, I just remember thinking, “This isn’t me.” But it was me. And so I was
very freaked out by what I saw and it hit me very hard, the realization that, “You are
these people.” What really hurt me, then, was finding out what I lost. And what I lost
was control over my life. And when you’re institutionalized there, in that school, or
anywhere else, you have no control. All of your power is taken away from you. You have
no ability to come and go anymore. You have no ability to make decisions on your own.
Everything is done for you. And if you don’t follow those prescribed rules, you are quote
non-compliant. And I was very non-compliant. So life for me in institutions was very difficult
because I wanted to do things that weren’t considered normal in that environment. So
for me, it was hard to realize that I could get out of bed when I wanted to, I couldn’t
go to bed when I wanted to, I couldn’t eat when I wanted to, I couldn’t eat what I wanted
to. I couldn’t even defecate when I wanted to. I had no control. So it was very hard
and it was miserable for me. Very miserable.