Omg you’re sweet. Thanks so much. This post is going to turn into a PSA LOL
It’s funny because it still happens every damn day. Like I can always name at least one instance of someone being a prick to me over my disability, and all you can really do is make a decision.
Which is more important to you? You, or how they see you? I’m not asking people to like me. I’m asking them not to be giant fucking dicks. They don’t have to like me to help me, to show they have character. I’m asking them to have integrity, and when you put someone in that kind of situation, frame it like that for them? They will almost always either do the thing or give you a clear picture of them (which really helps you to keep your confidence).
Let me see if I can explain it in a way that makes sense.
Often when dealing with a physical impairment, particularly one that other people don’t notice, is that you will get bullshit. You often have to find ways of building yourself up, prevent yourself from internalize the bullshit. So there are usually two ways of doing this, either you learn how to effectively handle people and frustration and build mantras that sort of get you to remember that you are not lesser than anyone, or you get angry.
Anger is effective, and plenty of disabled people use it, but it backfires, because while it makes fighting easier, you very quickly build yourself into a kind of prison you can’t get out of.
So you have to learn how to turn every situation into a learning experience for them and you. you have to become a more effective communicator, you have to make up little quick fire speeches about your condition so that people can be managed. You have to learn how to ask for things, when to get forceful, when to get out the attitude. How to remind yourself that you are a person, and that your disability is also turning you into someone who is strong, independent, capable, communicative, knowledgeable. Your disability is giving you the tools you need to be an amazing person. And when you, this amazing person, confront an asshole, it’s important to keep that perspective.
They’re not stooping to your level to do you a favor. You’re on a level so high above them you’re asking them to climb, and that’s not something everyone can do. I mean they can’t help it if they’re just weak or stupid. A person could even say that these normal people are “handicapped”. Being a giant dick is easier.
Every time you hit a wall, every time someone bullies, mocks, or refuses to help you, you need to be able to remove yourself and flip the perspective. That asshole who told you you were lazy…they just showed you what kind of person they are. That person who made fun of you…their psychology is feeble. That bastard who thinks you need to be educated about your own condition, who has a list of things you should eat and exercises you should do to cure yourself…they’ve just handed you everything you need to tell them off.
Confidence isn’t hard so long as:
1. You know your condition inside and out (do your research about your body and be proactive.) if your condition is idiopathic (like mine) then know everything that you can about potential causes
2. You learn how to say no. Don’t say “if you don’t mind” or similar ways of avoiding questions. Don’t let them think they are allowed to control the conversation. Say simply and firmly “I would rather not talk about my condition to you Can you please just compensate in this way?” For example, I paid for a walking tour of Italy. I went. I told the tour guide that I have a visual impairment. It doesn’t need to be addressed except that you can’t just walk away without saying something. If you move the tour on, please be sure you still have me when you arrive at the next destination. She wanted me to tell her everything. I simply said “I spend a lot of my day explaining my condition to complete strangers who think they’re entitled to know about my body. I’d prefer not to talk about it in this kind of setting.” And she and the group immediately felt as if they were being the invasive assholes they were actually being. They apologized and no one asked me a single fucking thing about it for the next week, except to ask me if I needed help with anything. I was absolutely friendly and civil, and no one behaved toward me as if my bid for autonomy was offensive to them.
3. You learn how to think about yourself and your “disability”. Remember that you may have a few limitations, but what you gain from those, in terms of knowledge, integrity, character, are invaluable. So no matter how frustrating it is to not be able to do the things you want, keep thinking of this as a chance for you to be better. It’s not a test. There’s no one who is grading this, and sometimes you’ll fuck up. It’s a process. You have to see it that way. A lot of people will think that by saying this, I’m somehow giving thought tools like, how to trick yourself into believing you’re valid. No. You are valid, but your mind isn’t letting you believe it because your mind is being attacked from a million sides and is firing back with all the stress hormones you can imagine.
I agreed to be a test subject for a group of grad students. They were measuring the responses to stress of disabled people. Disabled people, on any given day, produce way more stress hormones than a normal person. Makes us more prone to secondary illness, fatigue, cancer, chronic pain (because it is cyclical and once started cannot be stopped. Stress hormones trigger it). In one of my posts I talked about how having a disability isn’t just the actual impairment, but also the other shit that comes with it like PTSD and stress management. When under that kind of stress chronically, it can be impossible to see yourself clearly. It can even lead to clinical depression. You need to find ways to convince yourself NOT OF LIES, but of the truth.
You are not lesser. You are different. This difference makes it difficult to deal with the world of the other people, but it makes you better at seeing facets they cannot. Find ways to convince yourself of that truth, and the stress will dissipate. It will be managed more effectively.
4. You know how to navigate. If you have a mobility issue, learn those elevators. If you have a difficulty with navigating, research and find the strategies that work for others. Should you have to learn clever ways to hack the world? No. But are you worse for learning them? No. When I was in college, I did a year abroad. My mom was fucking white knuckling her life right, because if I kept being independent, I’d either get hurt or I wouldn’t need her anymore. But like, when I got there, I realized they’d segregated the disabled people in dorms where they were like, clumped together. I had a few hall-mates who were blind. I mean one had only light/shadow, one had no eyes. I was partially sighted so I had a foot in each world.
Who do you think the fully blind kids wanted guiding them around school or shopping? It wasn’t a fully sighted person. It was me. Why? Because I knew exactly how to give auditory clues, how to lead them, how to get around. If I couldn’t see something, I’d ask for help, and they knew I could do that too. I learned a ton about my own thinking of my disability in that time. I was amazed by how capable they were with so much more extensive blindness. I learned that I was really throwing myself a pity party, not learning how to think. They taught me how to see past that stress and just build my strengths. How to feel no depression whatsoever about learning extra information to keep myself safe. I’d do it for them in a heartbeat, so why couldn’t I do it for me?
It was an emotional barricade. It prevented me from traveling and doing things because of fear. So I broke it down and rethought it and memorized those step counts, those elevator maps, those short cuts, those tricks. I just fucking did it. And I felt better about my capabilities than ever before.
5. You learn to feel comfortable defending yourself. I don’t mean necessarily physically (but that’s also a good idea). I mean verbally. You need to feel justified in speaking up. That can be the most difficult thing, because many people with chronic illness or disability feel a sense of shame or responsibility for their condition. You may have some measure of responsibility, but you’re not asking people to forgive you your sins. You’re asking them to not be giant dicks, remember? So you were driving the car that got in the crash that put you in that chair. So fucking what? That fact HAS NO BEARING upon how people should behave. I mean really. No matter how or why or what is “wrong” with your body, this doesn’t excuse people from being giant fucking dicks! This is about how they behave toward someone who is disabled whom they SONT KNOW! They don’t get to be an asshole. They don’t get to pass a value judgment on your body.
You are your only advocate. You’re the one who knows it best. You need to be able to call bullshit and stand up to bullies.
I told the story about the guy whose dog attacked my friend’s guide dog. And that even though he was a full grown man, and those people around us were strangers, I called them out. That was easy to do, because I was defending my friend, but you have to be willing to do that for your own disability too, like the time the guy got in my face and got physical with me over my guide dog.
Take a self defense class if only to learn how to scream and punch. Get your voice out. Practice that until you feel no more embarrassment. Then refine that voice to match your own self-advocacy.
Anyway, sorry that turned into a lecture! I didn’t mean it to, it’s just that I want people to feel confident being what they are.
Thanks for the shout out.