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.
3 thoughts on “Being Disabled – #Autistic December 1/31”
I never thought of myself as disabled either. Yes, I have epilepsy, and yet I was still able to work and socialise – I just felt like a normal person with a very mild impediment until things got really bad.
And now look at me: severe epilepsy that has given me a life changing injury. Anxiety. Depression. PTSD. Agoraphobia. EDNOS. Autism. Claustrophobia. Acrophobia.
Most of those conditions – while debilitating – aren’t disabilities as such. Some of them truly are, though – and they are the reason that I’m no longer able to work. And who the hell would want an epileptic caring for their elderly and vulnerable mother?
Never, for one single moment, did I expect to land up in a wheelchair – but that’s exactly what happened. I can walk around the house with no crutches now and then (I’m not going to kid myself that this will be a daily thing yet – I’m just grateful for the days when I don’t need my crutches) but the Thundertank is a permanent aspect of my life now, if I want to get outside. When you’re epileptic and have ME, it’s just not safe to be walking around: I’ve had to learn to live with that. I bit the bullet and learned to see the Thundertank as freedom that I would otherwise not have.
We still don’t know if Dom is eligible for a blue badge. We think probably not, as I’m not a driver myself, but we’ll see 🙂
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In my case it’s a combination of mental illness, social anxiety and sensory hypersensitivity. Some of that is autism-related but also PTSD from an emotionally abusive relationship.
I used to cope with some situations much more easily than I do now: things I could get through with ease now reduce me to panic attacks. I mostly avoid things that would cause me problems, but especially at work that’s not always an option. I’m working with an Occupational Health practitioner to develop appropriate accommodations.
I know a bit about blue badges because my ex had one: It would be you that would potentially be eligible for a blue badge, not Dom, and you’d be able to use it as a passenger in any vehicle you were being transported in. Your local authority will be able to provide information and would handle any application.