I never imagined when I used to see or hear about disabled people that one day it would include me. I don’t think anybody does: unless you are disabled yourself it’s always something that affects other people. Less fortunate people.
Be honest: that’s how you think of us, isn’t it? You feel glad–lucky–that you’re not disabled. Because that would be awful. Am I right?
That right there: that’s stigma. You feel sorry for us, pity us, hope you never become one of us. You see us as damaged people. You can’t believe it’d ever affect you, that you could ever become disabled yourself.
I know, because I used to feel that way. Disabled people were some other group, over there, not like me. There was a difference, a gulf that could never be crossed: that could never be me.
I had no instant of revelation, no light-bulb moment. The idea that I was disabled myself took time to sink in. I spoke the words long before I accepted the truth and believed them; I denied it to myself. I worked full-time, had my own home: how could I reconcile that with being disabled?
What I felt was internalised ableism: I had become accustomed to equating disability with failure. Really accepting that I was disabled meant confronting my own prejudice, admitting it existed, and then unlearning it.
That journey has been a hard one. It’s more than uncomfortable to admit that you don’t live up to your own moral standards, but faced with a choice between denial and change I realised I had to change if I was ever going to accept myself for who and what I am.
I am disabled: that means there are things I can’t do and situations I can’t handle. It doesn’t mean that I ought to be able to do those things, and it doesn’t mean I’m a failed human being: I’m not. And I accept that.
This is the first post in Autistic December, a daily series about the impact on my life of being autistic.