My Identity Isn't the Nasty Habit Killing Your Dreams
I am so sick of ableism. Which is saying something, considering I'm already chronically sick.
I was excited to check out the Charmed reboot recently after a friend recommended it. Until an old man in a wheelchair was identified as a sexual harasser. At the end of the episode, he stands. The charmed one facing him is shocked.
Then he turns into a demon.
via GIPHY All disabled people are only a moment away from pure evil.
These are tropes as old as time. Disabled people miraculously walking or being discovered as a "faker". How would you feel if the main example of your identity in the media was being cured, being fake or being evil? I promise you, faking being disabled is not worth it because of ableism. Based on my experiences and our communities stories, anyone not 110% disabled in the eyes of others has been accused of faking it (#yesAllDisabled).
Whether it's my sister being yelled at for using a disabled parking spot when she could barely walk or a secret service agent telling me my service dog was fake when I tried to go to a political rally. The disabled to abled "binary" is strictly enforced, preventing many people from getting help/access and fracturing our community.
We aren't demons and we aren't helpless, childlike angels. We are multifaceted humans just like everyone else.
Many disabled people will either never be cured or don't want to be. That storyline persists because it inspires abled people. The people telling our stories can't imagine being disabled even though they may be at some point in their life. Many people a year after a spinal cord injury return to their baseline happiness. We are the only identity where simulations lead to pity and discomfort instead of empathy. Abled people don't see our creative adaptations to an inaccessible world. That takes time and a willingness to engage with our actual perspectives.
As frustrating as it is being portrayed as an evil monster, it's preferable to getting praise just for existing. This morning, one of my suggested medium articles was "Are you aware of the nasty habit killing your dreams?". When I saw the header image of a wheelchair user saying "What's holding you back?", I felt pure rage wash over me.
What does an image like that mean? It means if a disabled person can handle being in a wheelchair, you can (and should be able to) do anything!
It's ironic to see that an article with a section devoted to not hiding your true self would diminish a fifth of humanity to a background prop, to inspiration porn. At this point, all disabled people should be charging for being motivational speakers. If we are even allowed to speak at all.
Want to know what's nasty and killing your dreams? Ableism and meritocracy. The myth that anyone can do anything in any way, without help. Shaming and punishing yourself for every failure, real or perceived, is a one-way ticket to nowhere. I know because I've ridden that train.
It's taken me a long time and a lot of therapy to learn that gratitude, suffering, resilience, and progress are individual metrics. Self-compassion, a strong network, and access will do more for your dreams than shaming yourself for negative self-talk. Instead of running from it, try examining your inner meanie with gentleness and humor. Emotional awareness does more for addressing underlying issues than repression ever could. Your beliefs will follow your behavior. Kindness is a reinforcing loop whether you turn it inwards or outwards.
Most of us weren't raised with the consistency, resources and self-discipline we need, but there's never a better time and place to start than exactly where you are.
My experiences as a disabled, trauma surviving writer are here for anyone to learn from. As long as you don't drop my humanity along the way.