I am a disabled person who hasn’t overcome my illness. Am I worthy enough to not be invisible?
I am beyond tired of inspiration porn. I am tired of hearing about disabled people who have “overcome” their disability through the sheer determination and grit. I am tired of being invisible because I haven’t overcome my illness. I’m tired of the able bodied only fixating on people who have fought their disability and won. That’s not real life; real life is uglier than that. More often than not disability doesn’t involve miraculous healing, and it’s rarely overcome by determination. Those people are the exception. Real life with disability involves a lot of loneliness, pain, discrimination, and loss. So I don’t want to hear your inspiring quotes like “the only disability in life is a bad attitude.” That is disingenuous , and it’s just insulting to think that a positive attitude can overcome everything.
When I got sick I thought I was going to beat it. I thought I was going to deal with my illness as aggressively as I could and I was going to go back to my normal life. Unfortunately my body had another plan and that does not make me a failure. It does not mean I am weak and I’ve stopped fighting. Because I am disabled does that mean that I am not strong? Does that mean I don’t know how to persevere? I do those things every single day, but there is no applause for me.
- I am strong every time I get out of bed and go throughout my day pretending I am normal.
- I am strong every time I smile even though I want to cry.
- I am strong every time another doctor tells me that there is nothing they can do for me.
- I am strong every time someone tells me my illness is not real
- I am strong every time someone tells me that I talk about my illness too much
- I am strong every time someone tells me how inconvenient my illness is for them
- I am strong every time someone questions my weight
- I am strong every time I put someone’s needs before mine, even though I feel like my body is falling apart
- I am strong every time someone tells me that I’m selfish because of my pain
I also persevere through life even though I am always tired and always in pain. I have been in pain every single day for 6 years and I haven’t given in yet, does that not count as perseverance? I work really hard even though my body really doesn’t want me too, does that not count at hard work?
Most people who live with chronic pain did not choose their life, and yet they live with it day after day, year after year. Is that not more heroic than the person who runs a race, or climbs a mountain, or plays a football game? As Christopher Reeves said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” There are a lot of obstacles in running a race or climbing a mountain, but they are self inflicted. Athletes push themselves to become better athletes, people with disabilities push themselves just to survive in a healthy world. When you have a disability you have to deal with obstacles that you didn’t choose. You can choose how you react to each obstacle, but that is a far as your control can go.
When are people going to start caring about people with disabilities who haven’t overcome them? When are we going to stop idealizing those newsworthy stories of disabled people triumphing over all? When are we going to stop holding other people with disabilities to the same standard? Do we care at all about people who are always suffering or do we only care about people who have overcome disability?