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Ableism and Memes

There is something that has really been frustrating me lately, which is why I’m writing a blog entry at nearly 11 pm on Sunday evening after being out of town for nearly a week. But I can’t not say it anymore. I can’t keep quiet about this level of ableism.

There are a couple of memes that are really popular on Facebook lately. They come and go. One of them is a math problem, and implies that there is something wrong with you if you can’t solve it. These happen a lot. The other one is an image, and it implies if you can’t spot the difference, if you can’t see what’s wrong with it, you’re also somehow lesser than.

STOP.

That is ableism.

Not everyone is good at math. I failed multiple math classes at college level. I barely scraped by eighth grade math. I have a learning disorder and as a result, math is very difficult for me. And yet, people make comments like “if you can’t solve this, you shouldn’t be able to breed.” “If you can’t solve this, you shouldn’t be able to vote.” “If you can’t solve this, *insert insult here*”. Okay, really? That’s offensive. I don’t need to be able to solve what to you is a simple algebra problem in order to be a member of society. There’s no reason to belittle those who cannot solve them. If you can? Great! If it is something you struggle with and still manage to figure it out? I’m proud of you. But for some of us, it isn’t possible. For some of us, no amount of trying can make something click in our brains that we literally are incapable of. All it does is hurt us. All it does is make us feel lesser than.

Then there’s the vision memes. You know. “If you cannot spot the red panda, then you don’t deserve to be on the Internet. “If you can’t see the problem, blah blah blah.” Again, stop. There are SO many reasons why this level of ableism is infuriating. It insults blind and low vision people. It insults people who may not be able to focus to find the thing. It mocks those who have very real struggles, and are actually amazing people – their brain just doesn’t work as your brain might.

I know, I know, someone is going to come back with “Well, I didn’t mean people like *you*. You’re obviously smart.” SHUT. UP. If you don’t mean the ones like me, then which ones did you mean? I’ll let those words sink in. You mean the ones that you pick and choose to not be good enough, right? The ones who were disadvantaged by no fault of their own. The ones that society already mocks and looks down on, because they don’t meet your bullcrap levels of good enough.

It’s absurd and ableist to base self-worth, intelligence, and basic rights to people based on just some viral meme. So knock it off.

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To the person who sent me a nastygram

I am disabled.

My disabilities and my health issues, both visible and none, psychiatric and other types, hinder my various abilities in life. I don’t know what it’s like to be able bodied. I don’t know what it’s like not to have a disability.

Being disabled is hard. I sometimes lose things I love – like events I’ve been looking forward to for a year, friendships, certain aspects of freedom. I cope by talking about it.

Like a lot of people in my age demographic, I opened a Sarahah account. I knew I was taking a risk. But I got so many nice, sweet compliments and when I’d feel down, I’d read them and feel better.

But there’s always that one.

“You talk about your health problems too much and it makes you seem desperate for attention and pity. Grow up.”

I don’t do it for attention or for pity. I do it because it’s my life. I do it because it’s the reality of how I live. I literally don’t know life without being disabled.

I assume you wouldn’t tell someone who posted constantly about their kids they were desperate for attention and pity to grow up, right? After all, they live with their kids and see them every day. Most people are okay with people talking about their kids and don’t write them off as immature.

What if someone talked about their hypothetical job constantly? Again, they must be desperate for attention and pity, right? No, I guess not.

So WHY is it so taboo to talk about my health constantly? It’s what I live with every day. Juggling doctors, juggling appointments, finding the fine balance between what I can and can’t do is incredibly difficult. I talk about my health problems. I actually have been working on posting it less.

Disabled people are often put up on a pedestal to admire, we’re expected to be inspirational, we’re expected to defy the odds. But not all of us do. Not all of us defy the odds. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

I don’t know who you were. I don’t know who you are. But please, just delete me from Facebook if you’re that annoyed with me talking about my life and existence as  attention or pity? I honestly don’t give a crap if anyone comments on my stuff. If anyone feels bad for me. I just want to talk about my life and my existence as it is.

And finally? Saying something like that anon, and telling me to grow up is actually hilarious. Pretty sure that means I’m not the one who needs to “grow up” if you’re sending anon nastygrams. There’s a delete or block button, and I suggest you utilize that if I annoy you that much.

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Let disabled people talk about their lives

I’m really tired of the way disabled people are currently treated.

If we talk too much about our disabilities? Oh, we’re too NEGATIVE. We’re just whining.  We need to try  ~positive thinking~  *tosses glitter*. We just need to be more positive! Yay!

If we try to be too positive about our disabilities? See, it’s not really that bad. We can’t be THAT disabled if we’re able to see the good in it. If we’ve accepted our disabilities, then we must not really be disabled. 

The thing is, no matter what we do, people seem uncomfortable that disabled people exist. Some think that we should be willing to share every detail about our lives, some think we should just shut up and live in silence.

The thing is, EVERY person has a DIFFERENT level of comfort with what they are okay with sharing or note. For the most part, I am happy to talk about my disabilities and teach and educate. But sometimes, I just plain don’t want to and there is nothing wrong with that! I don’t owe anyone an explanation on why or how a certain aspect of my disability affects me. “Because I’m disabled” IS an adequate answer to “why can’t you do thing?” and details aren’t necessary.

As an activist and an advocate, I think it’s important to be open and honest about my disabilities. Which, for the most part, I am.  However, that doesn’t change the fact that there are some things I am more private about and don’t really want to talk about. And just because I’m willing to write about it, doesn’t mean I want to answer the random person on the bus who asks me about it.

I get to choose when, where, why, and how I talk about my disability. That isn’t for someone without my disability to decide. If they don’t want to hear about it, they don’t have to put themselves in a position where they have to listen. If I want to share why or how a certain thing affects me, that’s okay! I’m not being negative or candy-coating my disability or whatever. If I don’t want to, it doesn’t mean I’m not “really disabled” or I don’t “really want to educate”. I have a right to privacy just like anyone else.

People should be able to talk about their disabilities how they want.

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Let that be enough

My hearts breaks every time I see a fellow autistic believe they are a burden. My heart breaks every time a fellow autistic thinks they aren’t enough. My heart breaks every time I see a fellow autistic think they don’t deserve accommodations, that they’re asking too much, that they should just suck it up.

You aren’t a burden because sometimes you need things reworded in a way that you understand. You aren’t a burden because sometimes you need silence and sometimes you need noise. You deserve to have a place you thrive in for work and school or anything, really. If that means you need noise canceling headphones, if that means you need to do it in a seperate, dedicated room – that’s okay! There’s nothing wrong with that.

If you need expectations written out and not just, well, expected  of you, that’s okay! That doesn’t make you a burden. Just because it’s not what the majority of the world seems to thrive on doesn’t mean it’s what YOU need to thrive on.

If you need to take a comfort object, if you need to stim, if you physically cannot sit still, that’s okay. You aren’t hurting anyone else by stimming, you’re doing what makes you comfortable in a very scary world.

Your existence is not a burden. . Neurodiversity is natural. You are WORTHY of the help and supports that you need to THRIVE in the world. Just because someone needs different, more frequent, or what you deem as “easier” accommodations, doesn’t mean that yours also don’t exist and that yours aren’t worthy.

The accommodations I need due to being autistic may be different than the ones someone else needs. That doesn’t make theirs more or less important than mine; it doesn’t make theirs more or less valid than mine. They still exist, because that PERSON exists. 

You are a beautiful, worthy person who just happens to be disabled. You’d beautiful and worthy and perfect without that disability, you’re beautiful and worthy and perfect with the disability. Accommodations make it so that you can enjoy and thrive in the world as you deserve to!

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. There’s nothing wrong with needing supports. It doesn’t mean that you’re a burden. There’s nothing wrong with needing help sometimes.

You exist. You’re worthy. You’re loved. You’re valid.

And just for today, just for now, let that be enough.

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Accepting Depression

I’ve made it no secret that I have depression and anxiety. It’s very much a key aspect of who I am. It shapes how I view the world, it’s the lens I make decisions through. It’s my very core – I don’t know who I am without depression and anxiety. Despite meds (which is my choice!), despite therapy (again, my choice – I am currently choosing not to be in therapy but that isn’t a choice I have always made or had the option of making), despite hospitalization in the past… it’s very much a part of me.

I don’t know who I am without depression. I don’t know who I am without OCD. I don’t know who I am without anxiety. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Part of accepting being disabled has been accepting depression. Accepting anxiety. Accepting OCD.

It doesn’t mean it’s not disabling. Oh lord, it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean I don’t learn coping skills or ways to navigate the world. That’s silly to think I don’t. But it does mean that I realize it’s a part of me and I make accommodations in the world to make it possible for me to get around. It might mean I need a friend to talk me down when anxiety brain goes haywire. It might mean that some nights I need someone to watch fluffy and/or crappy YouTube videos with me. It might mean that some nights I’m just a puddle of exhaustion and brain cooties.

And that’s okay, because it’s my normal. That’s okay, because it’s the person I am. Accepting my limits, accepting my flaws has been crucial in accepting who I am. It doesn’t mean I glorify it, by no means do I. I don’t think it’s amazing to be depressed, I don’t think it’s great to have soul crushing anxiety that impacts every little thing I do.

But I do think it’s okay to accept it.

I do think it’s okay to say that other people need to accept it if they want to be my friend and interact with me. I do think that it’s wrong that when many people find out that I am psychiatrically disabled, their immediate reaction is “you need meds”, “you need therapy”, etc before they even interact with me and find out why I am the way I am.

Accepting my disabilities has allowed me to accept who I am. It’s high time for other people to accept them now, too.

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Growing Up Disabled

I have always been disabled. Some people acquire disability, some people are born with it, some people are born with it and don’t realize they’re disabled until adulthood.

In my case, I was born disabled and I’ve always known I’m disabled. It’s very much of fact of life, the same way I have blue eyes and pale skin. It’s just the way I’ve always been and always will be. There’s no changing it, no looking around it.

Growing up disabled and knowing it means that people always  belittle you, because you’re disabled. You’e often talked to like you’re not there. You’re talked around. You’re handled with kid gloves. You’re treated as lesser than. Why?

Because you’re disabled.

I have been told, to my face, that I’m an inspiration just for doing things like getting a soda out of the drink cooler at Walgreens (I wish I was joking…). I have been told, to my face, that people would kill themselves if they had be disabilities. I’m told I should be grateful to be objectified and turned into inspiration porn, because it touches other people. I’ve been told so many bullcrap things.

Because I’m disabled.

I’ve been told I don’t deserve health insurance. That I should die, because I am expensive to keep alive. I have been told that because I cannot get a job, I don’t deserve to live. I have also been told I have to get a job, that there are “jobs for everyone”. This simply isn’t true in today’s world and climate. I was actually kicked OUT of vocational rehab for being too disabled (which at the time, was frustrating. Now I think it’s hysterical).

Because I’m disabled.

I’ve been told not to let my disability define me, that I can do anything despite being disabled, that I can’t do things because I’m disabled. I’ve been told both extremes.

Because I’m disabled.

I’m told that “my mind is fine”, even though the rest of my body isn’t. Which is ableism, because my mind isn’t fine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve been told that I need therapy, I need meds, I need this diet, I need that diet.

Because I’m disabled.

Somehow, being disabled, means it’s open season. It’s somehow okay for strangers to comment on my health, on my very existence. It’s okay, when it really shouldn’t be.

Because I was born disabled, I’ve lived with this every day of my life. I’m sure I would if I had acquired disability, but I’ve never known what it’s like to live without this. What it’s like to live without people commenting on my very existence, in ways that would be rude if I wasn’t disabled.

Why? Why is this acceptable just because I’m disabled? I was born disabled, just like some people aren’t born disabled.

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Burnout, burnout

Ah, burnout. I’ve written about it before, and I’m writing about it again.

It’s an exhausting place. it really is.

It makes just existing utterly exhausting.

Years of passing, years of existing take a toll.

I am tired.

I am worn out.

I am weary.

Years of passing wear me down.

No more, I say, no more.

For I am burned out.

For I am broken.

For I am lost.

For I am struggling with basic self care.

Because of years of passing.

Because of years of trying.

It’s not a good thing.

 

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Self ableism

So it’s nearly 1130 pm on May 1st, 2017 which is blogging about disablism day. It seems like there are so many things I could say, and so many things my friends and fellow advocates have said, that it feels like there isn’t much left for me to say.

Largely, the largest form of ableism I have been struggling with is against myself. I can’t hold down a job, I couldn’t graduate college, I was even actually kicked out of vocational rehab. For me, school and a job just isn’t feasible. And yet.

I tell myself maybe if I tried harder.

I tell myself maybe if I did x, y, or z.

I tell myself that maybe it’s my fault all these things didn’t work out, which isn’t remotely true.

I beat myself up.

I tell myself maybe I can try again…. forgetting the fact that school nearly killed me. Forgetting that I was constantly sick, constantly missing class, constantly not capable of meeting the demands. To say I’m not capable isn’t me degrading myself or me saying being ableist against myself. It’s accepting my limits. It’s realizing that because I’m disabled, there are some things I simply cannot do.

I’ve seen people say “if I can graduate college, anyone can.” “If my grandma can have a job, anyone can.” Well, that’s bullcrap.

Not all disabled people can have jobs.

Not all disabled people can graduate college.

But all disabled people are worthy of food, shelter, and happiness.

It’s time we smash our self ableism and accept ourselves as is.

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I reach out to the truth

Now I face out, I hold out
I reach out to the truth of my life
Seeking to seize on the whole moment to now break away!

Oh God let me out, Can you let me out?
Can you set me free from this dark inner world?
Save me now last beat in the soul.

My entire life I’ve been told there are so many things I cannot do because I am disabled. I’m a victim of both being told there are so many things I cannot do and that Ic an do anything I set my mind to. How these both work, I really don’t know.

As a result, I’ve been trapped in lies. Lies that I’m not good enough. Lies that because I’m disabled, I cannot achieve anything. I’ve been told that I need to not let my disabilities define me or hold me back. It’s confusing. And I need to find my own truth. Make my own truth. Find my own path.

Something I’ve learned is I need to reach out to my own truth. Reach out to it, even. Because it is within reach.

Because it doesn’t matter what I’ve been told. They were wrong.

It doesn’t matter what I believed.  It was wrong.

But what matters is the truth I know now and what I do with it.