Being Disabled – #Autistic December 1/31

Being Disabled – #Autistic December 1/31

A close-up of a UK disability Blue Badge showing the white on blue disabled symbol on its lower left corner

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.

Rising Dark

Rising Dark

Day 29 of 30 Days of Poetry

A pencil and acrylic sketch on paper of a girl sat looking dejected, arms around her knees and head down, in front of a lit candle with a glowing halo around the flame. Around her is darkness out of which are rising black nightmare figures
Across the fields they fly,
Fleet shadow wraiths unseen
By stolid human eye.

Yet keener souls divine:
Dogs bark a herald cry
Then cower with a whine.

Foul spirits of the night
Round my lost soul entwine,
All summoned to my plight.

The candle flame burns lean,
Its feeble dying light
Faint hope to stand between.

Food: My Best Frenemy

Food: My Best Frenemy

Food is my best friend and worst enemy. Few pleasures compare to a good meal, and few leave me as wracked with guilt.

I’ve always liked to eat. As a child I rarely had to be encouraged to finish my plate; indeed I would often go back for more. My parents encouraged me, praising my appetite, and I have long sought to feel accepted and secure through praise.

Food became a source of comfort, making up for a dearth of friends. Reliable: a sure rush of pleasure and a slow come-down in the warm afterglow.

I might often feel lonely but I can always rely on eating to take my mind off that for a brief spell, fill the aching void and dull the pain.

And yet…

As I gnaw my way through the pile of food, gnawing back at me from inside comes my guilt. Guilt at overindulgence, guilt for my lack of self-control, guilt for my obesity, guilt for my weakness.

So I purge. Put my finger down my throat as far as I can reach to trigger the gag reflex, make my stomach spasm and eject the food I just ate and that weighed so heavily on my mind.

I keep going until I am dry retching, nothing left, red-faced and struggling for breath. Eyes blurred by tears. I blow my nose, clean up, rinse out my mouth and wash my hands. Realise that the emptiness remains, that the aching remains, that the guilt remains and was not voided along with the food.

My thoughts turn to food again, my desire for comfort warring with what remains of my will. I choose emptiness this time and sit in melancholy silence while the void inside feeds itself on the remains of my tattered soul.

Bullied

Bullied

Day 26 of 30 Days of Poetry

Why do I go back
Where I'm not wanted?
Why do I speak up
When my words are wrong?

I'm not like you
I'm different
I'm strange
I'm a weirdo
I'm a freak
I'm broken
I'm unwanted
I'm a misfit
I'm unlovable
I'm alone
I deserve this

I'm sorry for existing
I'm sorry I'm not dead
I'm sorry the pills didn't work
Or the knife
I'm sorry I was scared
I'm sorry I couldn't jump
I'm sorry you have to see me
I'm sorry (please stop)
I'm sorry I hurt
I'm sorry I can't stop crying
I'm sorry for apologising

I'm sorry I disturbed your nice life

I'll be gone soon
I'll go quietly
You won't even know
I was here