(This blog post is part of Blogging Against Disablism Day 2014. Is is hosted at http://tinyurl.com/BADday2014)
One of the hardest parts of disablism (or ableism) to deal with is how it invades your thoughts. All those insults and comments that have been said about or to me stick in my brain, and come out when my disabilities affect me. The thoughts that I’m not really disabled, that I’m just lazy or stupid or selfish or putting it on, things that have all been said to me by people aware of my disabilities.
I know logically that being disabled does not make me a bad person. Having impairments and needing help and support has no impact on my worth. Yet years of bullying, often based around my difficulties, mean I find it hard to accept sometimes. This isn’t helped by the current treatment of disabled and vulnerable people in the press, or how a lot of people talk about disabled people.
Recently on the news there was a story of a mother murdering her autistic son and then killing herself. Most of the articles were sympathetic to the mother, and went on about how difficult her son was to deal with. The fact a child was murdered because of who he was didn’t seem to matter. As an autistic person, it scares me, and it feeds into the thoughts that I’m not worth it. He deserved to live, and there is no justification for his murder.
Johan often tells me off for apologising when I ask him to help me. I can’t stop doing it though- years of being told I didn’t deserve it mean I feel guilty when asking for help, even though logically I know that I need it and Johan is quite happy to help me. I even tried to justify the neglect I suffered in the care homes for the same reason. If it had happened to anyone else I’d be outraged and want to do what I could to fix it, but because it was me and because I only deserved bad things because I’m not that ill/putting it on/it’s all in my head I felt guilty for even mentioning it.
Before my ME got bad there was no real external sign I was disabled, though I was odd enough to be called names/beaten up/literally trodden on. I was blamed for my difficulties, often by the people who should have been supporting me. The result was years of depression, and even that came with it’s own disablism. Though I’m no longer depressed, I still have times where I think I’m lesser because of my disabilities. I know I’m not the only disabled person who has this.
All people matter. Everyone should get the help they need, regardless of who they are. If someone can’t do something, that should be accepted and they shouldn’t be treated badly because of it. They also shouldn’t be denied the chance to do what they are capable of. No matter what people think, this is true. Now I just need to convince my brain of this.
4 thoughts on “Blogging Against Disablism Day: Internalised Disablism”
I think the popular trope of the ‘inspirational disabled person’ also contributes to this – the idea that you’re entitled to have difficulties only if you offset them by climbing Everest solo or doing something else that will make people post Facebook links going, “Next time you feel bad about your life, look at this person.” The crudest example of this that I’ve seen was when someone argued in support of ATOS by saying that of course many more ill and disabled people could work if they chose – just look at Stephen Hawking, he works!
My own internal ableist voice has always told me that I need to ‘prove’ my problems are real by having spectacular achievements in other areas, and it was only when I hit rock bottom and ended up at Dryden that I started to see it. Shitty as that place was in other respects, it did at least teach me that.
This is a great post, Danni – thanks for contributing to Blogging Against Disablism Day!
I think this is the hardest aspect of disablism, as you say. When you have faith in yourself and your own self-worth, everything on the outside is much easier to cope with (it’s still a problem, but it doesn’t feel so extremely personal and certainly not deserved). And unfortunately, that just doesn’t come about through an act of will; it’s something you can work on, but you can’t make it happen.
For me, being involved with other disabled people made the biggest difference. Because if you don’t feel that way about people with similar or different sets of limitations, it makes it harder to keep making a negative exception of yourself.
I hope your self-confidence continues to grow.
I’ve known about internalised disablism for years and it’s definitely something I struggle with much more than I would like to admit to.
Yesterday I was trying to write a blog post about complaining and the fact I always try to justify it with the words “I don’t mean to be a bitch but…”. I’ve just realised reading your points about internalised disablism that actually that’s probably a big bit of what I’m doing and why. Thanks for that it’s really useful and just made a part of it click in my brain properly.
Great post Danni.
Yet another perfect post! I hope when you’re feeling down, you come back here and read all the comments from people who value you, admire you, love you, and respect you for EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE RIGHT NOW. I just can’t emphasize that enough.
I’m in an odd headspace right now. I’m currently blessed with a nearly complete remission, and I’m convinced it’s an act of G-d. I have no idea if this is a permanent gift, or just a miraculous break from the past 8 years, but I’m feeling all kinds of things about it. I’m thrilled, of course, and incredibly grateful. At the same time, I’m asking myself the same questions you are.
Now that I’m “doing better”, does that make me a “better person” than I was before? If I relapse again, will I be a “worse person”? What is my value in the world, regardless of my health status? I revel in my ability to get up and move around pain free, but at the same time I’m afraid of losing it. One thing I’ve learned recently, is that if I give into that fear, the pain comes right back. I have to learn how to be fearless, and that’s scary too!
Ugh, rambling. Sorry.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you are who you are, and you are the way you are, and that is good enough! You are a child of G-d (or whatever higher power works for you), and for that reason alone you are WORTHY OF LOVE and care.
I am so happy to know you. Please keep being you. 🙂