Trigger Warning: CONSTANT. DAILY. ABLEISM.Posted: February 19, 2018
I do not quite yet have the words to fluidly articulate the decades of damage that I need to get off my chest, so this may be a ramble-y, unpolished post – and I do not apologise for this. It is 4am on a Monday and I am exhausted by life.
Tonight (or in the early hours of this morning, rather) I was aimlessly scrolling through my twitter feed and saw multiple instances of ableism – someone being compared to a disabled person in order to insult them, another person mocking the body of someone who actually has a history of medical trauma and physical impairment, mental illness shaming, a tweet highlighting the horrifically ableist policies being fought against in the United States, and a despicable headline from BBC News titled “Is having a disabled partner a burden?” – which apparently centres the opinions of three non-disabled women.
I say ‘apparently’ because I did not click on the link itself. I cannot click on links like these. Reading the headline alone triggered an emotional response in me that I would like to say is rare but is in fact a regular occurrence in my life, and has been for decades. That triggering is a regular cause of insomnia, as I stay awake trying with all my might to halt the angry and sad tears involuntarily erupting from my body, in conjunction with memories of the ableist damage my mind, body and soul has been subjected to for most of my life.
Despite a pretty amazing ability to suppress my own emotions in front of people, I read a headline like that (or hear a comment from someone along those lines) and in an instant a barrage of pain memories erupt within me. The pain of being abandoned by a long term partner just a week after declaring an intention to spend life with me, because he could not bear the thought of being with a woman in a wheelchair – prior to the surgery that resulted in me needing one. The pain of being rejected for ableist reasons but simultaneously used, time and time again, by people who have been content to use my life energy to power their own, leaving me empty and further wounded. The pain of accepting abusive and unequal love relationships because I internalised the ableist idea that I could not expect any better.
The pain of being bullied at school because of my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of endless job discrimination and resulting poverty because of my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of traveling for 3 hours in a frail and ailing body with a clinically depressed mind to study at institutions, but being forced out of them because of lack of educational support for my physical impairments and trauma. The pain of being forced out of education because of a lack of accessible public transport and lack of funds for alternative transport because… aforementioned employment discrimination.
The pain of everyone who claims to love you actually being ableist and not giving a fuck nor making any effort to educate themselves about the ableism you face. The pain of supposed allies being so only in word, not in consistent action. The pain of having to constantly ask people to consider not discriminating against you because making something accessible is seen as a charitable optional act rather than the recognition of your basic human right. The pain of being shamed, tone policed and further marginalised by the non-disabled when you have the audacity to express sincere emotions about how awful their ableism is. The pain of all this being preceded by multiple instances of medical malpractice, for which I will never be compensated and for which no apologies were ever offered.
And a thousand other pains I do not yet have the ability to name.
When your mind and body is ill, ALL OF SOCIETY rejects you, over and over. This has been my experience of the disability intersection of my identity – it of course intersects with being a Black woman, being queer, being poor (which for me is directly connected to being disabled, having physical impairments, an interrupted education, and psychological trauma). Navigating a world that tacitly accepts the idea of your inferiority and undesirability is really, really fucking hard. It takes an emotional toll that no amount of super human positive thinking can overcome. And when the people who purport to care about you are ableist too, what are you to do? How do you survive?
I am trying to figure that out.