Monday, December 3, 2012

Its Not Your Fault - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  The theme this year is "Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all".  There are innumerable barriers I could talk about, from physical barriers like lack of access, to societal barriers, to medical and legal barriers .  But I feel like no matter which of these barriers I choose, I'm only talking about one subset of disabled people, one group or maybe two or three who face these barriers.  And that's not what this day is about.  This day is about all the fragmented pieces of our community coming together and celebrating a disabled identity.  This isn't about just the physically disabled, or the intellectually disabled, or the "visibly" or "invisibly" disabled.  Today is about knocking down those barriers between us, recognizing and embracing each other, in all our diverse disabilities, and learning to embrace a practice of interdependence.  Because if we can't depend on each other, the others who have struggled and cried along with us, who can we depend on?

To that end, I want to talk about the most insidious barrier that faces our community, a gun that every disabled person finds themselves staring down the barrel of at one point or another.  It's the barrier inside our own heads, the barrier of blame, the barrier of inadequacy.  The barrier of internalized ableism.  The barrier of fault.

"If I just stopped stimming in public, I'd be able to fit in."

"If I just shut up, and didn't make a big deal out of my disability, maybe people would like me more."

"If I just bit the bullet and walked instead of using my chair, I'd be able to do this."

"If I just sat up in class instead of slouching, my professors wouldn't yell at me."

If I just...

If I just....

If I just.

If you take away nothing else from this post, I want you to take away this:  it is not your fault.  You don't have to do anything, say anything, be anything that you don't want to be. You don't have to meet other people's expectations of you.  You don't have to mitigate, castigate, hide the effects of your disability.  You don't have to cut your corners to fit into that round hole.  I know it feels like the only way anyone will ever love you, want you, is if you're that round block and you fit neatly into that round hole.  But your corners make you who you are.  They make you unique.  And if no one else loves you for it, not your friends, not your family, not your teachers, I do.   I don't care if we've never met, if we've never spoken, if I have no idea who you are.  No one is a stranger in this land of the freaks.  I love you, you fellow disabled soul, you fellow prince or princess of heartbreak, of pain, of self-imposed failure.  Bring me your tired, your battered, your society's prisoners yearning to break free.  I welcome you with open, spastic arms.

"You see, it’s my job
to unlock doors
unshackle minds
break through glass ceilings
motivate, inspire, and challenge you,
I’m here to challenge you"

 -Dare to Dream by LeDerick Horne


Emma said...

Love you Cara!

Anonymous said...

you rock grrl!
ironically dec 3rd is my birthday and i spent the lunch bit with my dead husband's mother and sister (faaaaiiilll!) he had bi-polar, i have acute ptsd and agoraphobia and as a result of the neck injury incurred trying to save him, fibromyalgia. as a doubly invisibly disabled person, i have such issues when ablebodied peeps don't get that, you know what, i am f**king amazing...most people who have been through my level of trauma don't have ptsd, they're dead. i make art, i support loads of people through traumatic stuff AND i have disabilities. my s-in-law started talking about welfare scroungers again... seethe... i shut her up by talking about tax evaders, but i wish i had known it was IPPD! cue the flame thrower!
it isn't my fault i claim benefits, i paid n.i. contributions for the very eventuality that i might need support one day, tax payers seem to forget that, grrr, more people become disabled than are born disabled.
sorry for rant, you so don't need telling that! i think your post may just have hit a nerve... :)
thanks again, first time here, won't be the last!