Hello Dazzle! Thanks for coming and hanging out with me today, I’m glad that you are here. Today I want to talk about ableism and how I personally struggle with the ablest thoughts and beliefs that I was raised with. When we think about someone having discriminatory thoughts and behaviors against a group of people, we generally assume that it is a person that is outside that group. But the truth is that part of the discrimination within our society is within the people that are being discriminated against.
I was raised with the same garbage that every other American is raised with. Saturated in everything we do is the message that those that are different are less than those that meet the main stream expectations. I was raised on the same ideas of what being normal is. This strange, elusive myth that no one can describe nor obtain, but everyone still seems able to readily point out who isn’t meeting that socially constructed standard. This measure of normal then dictates the level of productivity, desirability, intelligence, excellence, fitness and health a person must possess in order to hold value.
For as long as I can recall, I knew that it was expected that I would be able to do everything by myself and that I should never ask anyone for help. These things would clearly be signs that I was failing at being productive and able bodied. It would signal to everyone around me that I was weak and held less value then those who were capable of performing this fabled feat. But it wasn’t until I was diagnosed with chronic illness that I began to think about what it meant to do “everything” by myself. Before then, it never occurred to me how absurd it was to not allow each other to request assistance.
Every human has limitations that are inherently part of their body, regardless if they are able bodied or disabled. No human being can grow a pair of wings and fly simply by trying hard enough. The world does not work this way. Our genetic make up programs limitations into us right from the beginning. Then our environments act upon us to not only change the shape of our bodies but also by altering the expression of our DNA. The result is that over time our limitations change. Sometimes this means that we grow stronger and faster from practicing a thing frequently. Other times it means that we become weaker due to sickness or disease or injuries.
But this is poppy cock! Regardless which society we consider, every human benefits from things that they themselves did not contribute towards. This is the nature of society. It is how communities work. Each of us benefit from things that we did not build: roads, hospitals, homes etc. Each of us benefit from things that we did not make: food, clothing, tools etc. We as humans live as a community so that we can benefit from the sharing of our efforts. This means that we can all benefit from the work that each other performs and the things that each other create. All of us benefit from being helped by others. We benefit from the teachers and mentors in our classrooms. We are aided by the emotional support of our parents and friends. This is what it means to be a community and there is greatest found in that togetherness.
Despite this truth, a quiet part of my brain continues with the programming from my childhood. It doesn’t matter that I have seen plenty of science that disproves what I was taught as a child. It doesn’t matter that my logical mind as an adult can look at the world and see it to be otherwise. There is still a little voice that speaks from the shadows of my childhood that tells me that I should never ask for help and that I am a lesser person because I cannot do everything alone.
I find myself having a different emotional experience despite everything that my mind understands. I frequently feel that I am a burden to those around me despite their reassurances that I am not. I feel that I could never be a desirable person for a life partner or a friend despite the fact that I have been blessed with a wonderful life partner for more then 20 years and amazing friends that have stood the test of time. I constantly feel that I must prove that I have value as a person and that I can offer others things that are valuable despite this never having been asked of me by the people I am in close relationships with. I frequently find myself feeling that I am broken.
These feelings that I struggle with are the conflict between what I have learned as an adult and what I was raised believing about the nature of people. When these feelings arise, I remind myself of their source and gently reassure myself of the truths that I have learned. I give my feelings space, because they are valid. I am not a bad person for having these thoughts and feelings about myself as a disabled person. I am a person that is trapped in an ablest society who is also disabled. Just like all the able bodied people, I have been programmed to carry a package of beliefs and feelings regarding disabled people. That programming isn’t conveniently deleted just because I received a diagnosis or because I want it to be.
The truth is that the ableism programming will be present in my brain for the remainder of my life. It will always be a part of who I am. But like every thought that I have, I can choose to embrace it or to discard it. And like all my feelings, I get to choose what I do with those feelings. We are never defined by the thoughts or feelings that we carry within us, for those are often echoes of the injuries we have received. Rather, we are defined by the actions that we take and the patterns we create in our lives.
Well, that’s about it for my rambling today. Thanks for coming and spending some time with me. If you like what you read, click on that like button. It really does help! Until we talk again, you take care of yourselves!