When People Started Calling Me Disabled

What is a disability anyway? Is it considered a noun, a verb, or an adjective? I have just realized that over the past eight years of being sick, I am considered disabled. It was always like this right from the start. For Pete’s sake, I’m filing for disability, so shouldn’t I consider myself disabled?

I have never once over these years thought of myself “that way.” You know why? Because I am a person, a human, a living being. I have my tastes in music and certain ways I like to do my hair. I am not a category. It only just now dawned on me that the world does not view me the way I see myself. They see someone who is in severe chronic pain and frequently unable to move. They see the crushing mental health issues I deal with. They do not see me.

I understand why they look at me that way. We are taught growing up to avoid those in wheelchairs and to not look directly at anyone who seems “abnormal.” We take sideways glances and wonder what horrible accident or tragedy befell that person. Or maybe it makes us uncomfortable and we wonder why they even ventured out in the first place. We only see the adjective of the disability.

When people started using the “D” word around me, I was shocked. These were people I had known before I had gotten sick. Now suddenly I was an object to them, a thing. There are a whole slew of words out there tip-toeing around the word disability. Differently abled, chronically ill, handicapped, handicapable. They all mean the same thing. Different. To other people we are different.

We are different because they can’t look past our differences, whether we were born this way or not. Society has made disability a taboo, something shameful to talk about. You are a hero for being “friends” with someone disabled. Businesses get incentives to hire someone with disabilities. Society teaches that this is inclusion. Why were we excluded in the first place?

It’s because we all know it comes down to the fact that we are treated differently. Why can’t we just recognize that sometimes people just need more help in some areas than you might? Sure, someone might not physically be able to walk, but their mind might be as quick as a whip. Someone else might be a great runner but might have trouble reading. Nobody is perfect and as a society, we need to stop categorizing disability. We are all different individuals with needs and so are you. We are all deserving of the same chance, without stigma, to be the person we want to be.

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