It has taken me a long time to accept my label as a young person with a disability but now I feel quite confident labelling myself as disabled. This seems to throw people off when I say it out loud because they immediate jump to my ‘defence’ and tell me that I am not disabled, I am just unwell. While your intentions are good, this does not comfort me at all. Instead it makes me feel as though you don’t think my conditions are serious enough to meet the standards of ‘disability’.
Disability, by definition, means “a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities.” Now if you take even a brief look at my life, you will see that I meet the movement, senses and activities criteria by miles. Disability is a scale, not a black and white thing and society needs to change the only image of a disabled person being someone who is in a wheelchair. A wheelchair is not the only criteria for disability.
It has taken months of positive affirmations and bravery to come to terms with my disability and every time someone corrects me, it sets me further back. Is it because my conditions aren’t written in black and white yet? Is it because you think I am not that sick? Maybe it is because on the days I am most disabled from living life, I am stuck at home by myself with no one to witness my struggles.
“Don’t be so negative, you’re not disabled.” Accepting and owning my status as disabled is far from being negative. I am embracing my body for what it is and learning how to make the most of my abilities. Accepting disability for me meant letting go of the dis and focussing on the ability. Yes, I am limited and restricted from certain things, but that’s ok. I am still living each day and trying my absolute hardest in all aspects of my life.
Correcting me when I call myself disabled is disrespectful and uneducated and it really hits a nerve for me. My identity is not defined by my disability, but it does rule majority of my life. I am not saying that disabled is the only thing that I am, but it makes up a huge part of me now and I’ve had to accept it, and so do you.
Living with an invisible disability is hard, sometimes I think it would be easier if I carried a neon sign saying ‘I am disabled’. People wouldn’t push past me for walking slow or make rude comments about it. They wouldn’t laugh at me for dropping things or having to ask someone to cut my food up in restaurants. They wouldn’t judge me when I tell them that I don’t work or drive. They would simply be more considerate towards my circumstances.
Disabilities are not all identical; some are physical, others are mental, and they all have differing levels of functioning. The people of the disabled community are the most diverse, colourful people I’ve met. It is not a one size fits all description, or even a one size fits most. Some you can see, others you can’t. We all have extremely different stories to tell.
I am disabled.
Please accept this, because I have. I know I am so much more than disabled, but that doesn’t make me any less disabled.