I can’t be close to anyone who isn’t actively working on dismantling ableism

I realized something a while ago, and by now it’s finally clear enough to be articulated:

I can’t be close to anyone who isn’t actively working on analyzing, understanding and dismantling ableism.

This isn’t a rational idea based on moral or principles, nor is this something that I’ve considered pros and cons and then made up my mind about. This is simply the most accurate description of the dynamics in relationships.

My life is permeated by ableism. In almost all everyday situations I’m reminded of that I’m marginalized and that the society I live in barely think of me as human and certainly don’t value my existence. When I eat a meal, take a shower, interact with people – all those situations are so filled with the reminders of ableism. As a severely, chronically ill person with a number of disabilities who can’t leave my home and needs assistance with a lot of things, ableism is always there. When I’m harmed by healthcare because of the lack of accessibility or when I let my assistant schampoo my hair and out of fear don’t dare to ask her to be a bit more gentle, I’m reminded of the power structure that’s called ableism.

Since ableism has such a strong impact on my life, I think about it a lot. I’m working with my own internalized ideas, I’m deconstructing my fear and shame and I’m reading and learning as much as I can about different experiences. Because the thing is, that being disabled isn’t a protection against ableism. I grew up in this ableist world and I’m just as affected as anybody else by the core values we’re fed with.

So what happens when I interact with someone who isn’t reflecting on and questioning ableism? Even though that person doesn’t mean to, they always hurt me. Yes, always. They use ableist slurs, they talk about the world like disabled people don’t exist, they forget that I can’t walk in stairs or talk on the phone and the most hurtful of them all: They invalidate the fear I feel as a disabled person, because they refuse to see how this society is treating people like me.

I know that people don’t necessarily have bad intentions when they do this. However, I’m not ever again going to open up to people and let them know what I think and feel when they will pat me on the head and ensure me that everything is going to be fine, when that’s obviously not true. Never again.

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Dear Life, Dear Pride

Dear life,

I’m so sorry. I’m sorry about everything that could have been, but never happened. I’m so sorry that I fooled myself so hard.

It’s summer now, meaning that I’m reminded of the LGBTQIA community that I’m not a part of anymore, because I got too ill and too disabled. Not that being ill and disabled is something that makes me less queer, not at all. But being the way I am, needing what I need, means that it isn’t possible to be a part of neither Pride nor an LGBTQIA community.

I can’t physically be at a Pride festival, because I can’t leave my home. I don’t participate in community discussions online, because the little energy I have, I need to spend on other things. Most of all I can’t openly identify with my queer self, my past, my desires, because I have to stick to the straight narrative to survive. Yes, it’s about survival. I’m in a place in my life where my existence is depending on me putting up a straight show.

This means that every summer, I cry when I see pictures from different Pride celebrations on social media. I cry because I’m reminded of that what I thought was my space, somewhere were I belonged, has turned out to be something else. Something that isn’t for me.

Dear Life, I’m so sorry that I failed you. Dear Pride, I’m so sorry that I’m not proud.

Invalidating My Vulnerability

I’m scared, like usual. This time it’s because I’m about to apply for permanent income compensation and this is super difficult to be approved for, meaning that I have to prepare for many years of fighting with lawyers and doctors. It’s a process with a big risk of a permanent worsening of my disease (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, ME) and it’s a very painful reminder of how vulnerable I am. Since so many people still don’t get how awfully harmful these procedures are, I want to write about this openly. I want to write about it to give people a better picture of what austerity does, since that’s one of the few things I can to to contribute to a political change. However, I’ve come to a point where I don’t think I can, because the reactions I get from people are so painful to read.

One of the most common reactions I get is that people give me advice I never asked for. Bad advice. Advice suggesting that I do something that is either totally inapplicable or very basic, meaning that I’ve already thought of it. This is terribly hurtful and even though I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why and come to some conclusion, I’m still having a hard time grasping it. The other day though, something hit me: It’s about denied vulnerability.

When people give me advice I didn’t ask for just because I’m trying to describe and understand my reality, I feel invalidated. I’m trying to close in on my own vulnerability and fear, trying to articulate it, undrstand it, make room for it, and all that bad advice become an obstacle to that. Because if your simple advice actually were good solutions, then I wouldn’t be this vulnerable.

The abled world is constantly trying to deny the subordination and vulnerability of people like me, by pretending that disabled people and chronically or long term ill people aren’t treated as bad as we are. When people deny my reality to the point where I can hardly see it myself, it makes it very hard to deal with. I invalidate myself and can’t understand or process my feelings.

I live in a place where a lot of people still think that we have a safety net if you get ill or disabled. We used to have that but it has been crumbled more and more for around fifteen years and by now, there’s really not that much left of it. I grew up being taught that we have a safety net and unlearning that and realizing that no, it’s not me who’s ill the wrong way or not really disabled is a very difficult process. I’m trying to close in on my own vulnerability and make that elusive sense of exposure to danger more tangible and less confusing, but when people deny my reality, it gets too hard.

Denied Disabilities, Denied Needs, Denied Accessibility, Denied Identity

Dear abled world who is constantly trying to rob me of my identity, this is for you.

 

I’m autistic, I need predictability to be able to navigate. My need for predictability is not an access need to you. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.

I can’t walk more than a few meters, and usually I need crutches. My ability to walk is impaired compared to what people in my age are expected to be able to do. This is usually seen as a valid disability, and my need for wheelchair accessible buildings is most of the times treated as a legitimate access need. My reality is validated.

I have ME. It’s a disease that has caused my inability to walk. Being ill with ME has also given me a shortage of mental energy, and I can’t focus for very long. This is a cognitive disability, but it’s rarely recognized. It’s the kind of disability that does effect my ability to perform in many areas, like speaking with my mouth and processing sounds. This is never recognized as a valid disability. My need for written communication isn’t considered an access need. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.

I have ADHD. I always think of at least 8 things at the same time. It’s exhausting to exist, and I need a lot of quiet time on my own without anything disturbing me. This is rarely seen as a disability. My needs are denied. My reality is denied.

I’m autistic. I need people to say what they mean and stop the camouflage talk, since it exhausts me to decipher and translate non-autistic language all the time. This is never considered an access need. My disability is denied. My reality is denied.

My body is too weak to stand up from the bath tub after having washed my hair. I need a handle bar on the wall and a shower chair to sit on. For occupational therapists that don’t know what ME and POTS are, this access need doesn’t exist and my reality is denied. With occupational therapists that have knowledge about ME and POTS, this access need is recognized and met. My disability is validated. My reality is validated.

I’m autistic. I interpret information differently than what people expect me to do. I interpret myself and my feelings autisticly. I think autisticly. I need to be understood as an autistic person, but that’s not considered an access need. My disability, personality and identity is denied. My reality is denied.

People tell me that I’m not allowed to identify with my disabilities, that I’m not my disabilities. Sometimes people tell me that I’m my disabilities shouldn’t affect my capability, that all I need is some accommodations and I should be able to perform like a person without disabilities. But I am my disabilities. I’m autistic, remember? My disabilities are lived experiences. The way I think and interpret information, it’s not possible to not be my disabilities, but I’m not even allowed to own my identity as disabled without the abled world trying to correct me.

What counts as a disability or as an access need is rarely obvious and just as rarely decided by us, the people with the lived experiences of disability. Pretending that everybody is agreeing on what a disability and a met access need looks like is nothing more than an efficient way to silence disabled people.

I just want to be allowed to be scared and sad without being brilliant

As I become more and more severely ill with ME, it’s getting more difficult to write. I can’t write that much anymore because it worsens my symptoms too much. Unfortunately, it means that I’m detaching myself from the world more and more, because my only connection with the world is my writing.

I’m thinking about this today, because I want to interact with my friends. I want to but I can’t grasp my thoughts, meaning I can’t say (write) anything analytical or smart. I want to tell people that I care about them, that I miss them, that I value them, but I’m so sad, so ill, so scared and so tired that I don’t know what to do with myself. So much of my social life is built on me saying smart things, and I have nothing insightful to say about anything today. It hit me so hard last night, that I’ve ended up in a situation where I think that I don’t have a right to talk about how hard my life is, and how sad and scared I am, if I don’t do it in an intellectual kind of political or philosophical frame. I’m trying to break free from this idea (that’s why I have this blog, I guess), but honestly, every attempt is making me so ashamed.

It’s not exactly helping that certain people are obviously terrified when I try to allow myself to be vulnerable. Not the people that I consider my friends, but some other people. Even though these are a minority, it affects me really hard. I caught myself daydreaming about being allowed to be sad and scared. It’s… I don’t know what. I’m sad and scared all the time, I’ve been terrified all of my life, and I still haven’t learned to allow myself to be sad and scared without feeling intense shame about it.

I want to write reflecting things about this. I want to write about how ever since I became ill, since it became more obvious to people that I’m disabled, it’s like people are blaming me like hell every time I’m open about how political decisions are making y life hell and how bad I feel because of that. But I don’t have the energy to follow my own thoughts. My head is a mess.

And I can’t even cry.