Monday, December 11, 2006

To be... disabled, Or not to be... disabled

[Originally written on 10 September 2005]

On people saying, ”I don’t think of you/myself as disabled“ and/or ”Disability is all in your mind“

At this point in my life I have no problem in identifying myself as ‘disabled’. I have cerebral palsy and there *are* things I can’t do, or have great difficulty with. These things do need to be acknowledged, or else I’m at risk of pushing/being pushed past my limits, and causing a great deal of damage. I used to be around a lot of people who would say ‘I don’t see you as being disabled’, and would use that as a reason to deny me the very real assistance I needed, and at the same time they would contradict themselves by obviously treating me as ‘less than’ and ‘inferior’, and continually make a big deal of my disability (??!!) - the one they didn’t see me as having! As a result I was very screwed up for the first 20 or so years of my life. Felt like I was weak, not really disabled, faking it (I have *cerebral palsy*, I was *born* with it for fuck's sake! But that’s the damage those attitudes caused), and pushed myself to an insane point, damaging both my body and my psyche.

Anyway, for the last five years I’ve ‘come out’ to myself and society about being disabled - and doing so much better. Achieving much more than I thought I could, and taking care of myself better. Ironically, the able-bodied people I’m around now don’t come out with the ‘I don’t think of you as disabled’ line, they acknowledge my disability, and value me because of everything I am, including the knowledge I have from living with a disability 24/7. They will discuss things with me, and allow for my limitations, and treat me with far more respect than those who tried to pretend it wasn’t there.

For me, it’s about seeing reality, and being seen as disabled is only a bad thing for me if I buy into the bullshit that being disabled means I’m inferior. It doesn’t mean that at all. I would no sooner say I didn’t see myself as disabled, as I would say I don’t see myself as female or white, or blue eyed. It is part of my reality, and for me denying that reality is far more damaging than the disability itself or even society’s discrimination.

It’s also about fighting against the current trend for papering over the cracks - for making everything seem ‘nice’, and ‘positive’, so that people don’t have to think and feel, especially about the difficult and the painful parts of life. A colossal and ultimately dangerous form of denial. Plastic surgery for the mind, soul and heart.

A lifetime of being surrounded by this does so much damage, and I have found myself rebelling, at last.

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