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.