“This is part of why I am so adamant about the differences between being chronically ill and being disabled. Some people, like myself, are both. But the people inspiration porn is about? The people we are constantly compared to when we can’t do something? They’re usually “only” disabled. Disability is a matter of society refusing to accommodate every person’s needs. Chronic illness is about our bodies and minds and how they function, or, rather, *don’t* function. Even if society was perfect about accommodating every person’s needs (lol), chronic illness would still exist, and it would still fuck us up.” --Lindsay Simms
Though I’ve been disabled for most of my life, it’s recently that I’ve begun to cling to the label. I knew it empowered me in some way, but I didn’t know why. My friend Lindsay wrote a wonderful post about masking symptoms and hiding pain, and that’s when it really clicked for me.
My disabilities are all chronic illnesses, of either a physical or mental nature. I live with autoimmune, neurological, and mental illnesses, and have since my first diagnosis at age nine. Throughout childhood and adolescence, my list of diagnoses grew longer, only to expand even more when my physical health began to quickly deteriorate in young adulthood. The label of chronically ill never bothered me, but it certainly wasn’t empowering. I tended to prefer to be called “disabled”, but it wasn’t my main identity.
Then, last year, I began using a wheelchair full time. This new accommodation was life changing for me, as it kept me from getting sick as much and gave me the most amazing sense of independence, but I realized it was doing more than that. It was taking something invisible, and making it seen. And I realized how much more confident I was with my own broken body, now that I wasn’t the only one who had to be around it, acknowledge it, live with it. It wasn’t just, as so many doctors had told me before, “all in my head”. It was shown to everyone around me. I felt so much less alone being so much more visible.
Disability, to me, is strong. Being chronically ill is sick and weak and never going away.* But I’m realizing more, that this all has to do with how I feel about myself, and how I feel about how the world sees me. It has very little to do with my actual health. It’s all about accepting who I am. And that’s a process that will never really end. I will always have new barriers to try and overcome, new challenges to deal with, and new disappointments in limits that I might never be able to break. And you know what? It’s okay that this process of self acceptance will never end. Because it sucks to be sick, and to not be able to do things. It’s okay that my disability doesn’t look like the “standard” of what disability should be, as long as I’m constantly working on accepting myself.
And that’s not easy. But that’s never stopped me before.
*These thoughts are strictly about myself, not describing how I feel about anyone else, or how they should feel about themselves. Please do not take my thoughts as a judgement on anyone else as a person; these are my own problems and should not be taken as anything else.