Disability and Me: Part 1

I have a complex relationship with  my disabilities, namely that for the longest time, I didn’t believe I was disabled. I was fed a line by the people around me that being disabled meant you couldn’t do things on your own, or needed a lot of help. My only examples were my grandfather (a double amputee due to gangrene that was caused by diabetes, a man who was lobotomized in 1960 to get to an aneurysm that was threatening his life), my father (chronic knee problems that necessitated a cane at times and a placard for parking spots), a double amputee teacher at my Catholic school, and a person with cerebral palsy who used a wheelchair in my public high school.

The few examples I saw on TV were people like the ones I already knew, who needed mobility aids or who were amputees, that’s it. I didn’t know that anxiety, ADHD, scoliosis, PTSD, or asthma are considered disabilities. I didn’t know that the pain I was dealing with, both physical and emotional, were and are disabilities. In fact, it wasn’t until I stumbled on tumblr and started searching out disabled bloggers after seeing a post on my dash that I even knew that I, in fact, was dealing with disabilities.

But, once I read up on things, once I stopped internalizing the idea that disability meant you needed some sort of mobility aids or an official document saying ‘this person is disabled’, my life honestly sucked less. I stopped beating myself up over not being able to get around as easily as my non-disabled peers. I stopped thinking that my pain, the difficulties I face, were laziness at best, or some kind of vindictiveness on my part at worst (things I’d been told at various points in my life).

I still struggle with all of that, to be honest. I don’t apply those standards to anyone else, either. That’s the messed up part of all of it. I hold myself to these impossible standards (thanks, in no small part, to my parents (a whole other story that I’ll get into eventually on here)) and hold myself to ableist ideas of disability sometimes, all because of what I was taught in life. I still struggle to even allow myself to claim that word because of what I internalized through my life.

I could use mobility aids on some days. Today was actually one of those days. But those come with people staring at me because I’m ‘too young’ to need them, or don’t look like I need them, or because my mother is ashamed to be seen out with me if I use them and something’s not broken (yes, she’s said as much to me). So instead of using something that’ll help me, I suffer through pain. I deal with it, because any time I mention my pain, it’s invalidated because she ‘has it worse’ and because she’s older so obviously her problems are more serious, and she makes do without those things (out of a misplace sense of pride).

I’m writing all this out to get it out and to say that I’m really sick of shaming of disabled people, both younger disabled people and disabled people who don’t “look” disabled. It’s hell. Days like today, it’s absolute hell. I know I should be able to say “fuck it” and just use the damned cane. I know I shouldn’t care. But I do, because I’ve been through so much abuse in my life and because of PTSD and anxiety, even a sideways glance from a stranger can start me crying. So I suffer, because of society’s messages it’s sent me, and because I can’t get past my own internalized ableism and the idea that I should be ashamed of being in pain unless something’s broken.

I really hope I can get past it one day, before I’ve wrecked my body from all this. I don’t wanna screw myself up that much.

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