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What Disability Pride Means When You Don't Feel Proud to Be Disabled

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It’s Disability Pride Month, and people with disabilities everywhere are celebrating life with their medical conditions and reflecting on the advocates who helped make the world more disability-friendly. But amidst all of the disability pride flags and gratitude posts about life with a disability, it may be easy to feel disconnected from the disability community, especially if you aren’t proud to be disabled. How can you commemorate Disability Pride Month when you’re struggling with your disability identity?

Disability Pride Month can be hard for people with disabilities who feel frustrated with their conditions — and it’s natural to feel alone when you see people openly celebrating their disability identities. But disability pride is about more than just loving life with a disability.

Disability pride means recognizing that disability isn’t always pretty. It’s knowing that people who seem so open and self-accepting still struggle with symptoms. It’s struggling through inconvenient, frustrating symptoms and flare-ups and knowing that you have an entire community beside you, cheering you on. It’s feeling frustrated about how your body functions and knowing that the sadness you feel today might fade with time.

Disability pride means caring for yourself in any way you can. It’s taking time to soak your aching body in a bath, taking your medications regularly, and partaking in hobbies that have nothing to do with your disability. It’s giving yourself grace when your disability hinders your productivity and simultaneously validating your frustration that you can’t do more. It’s setting boundaries with others — telling strangers on the street that you won’t share your medical history, asking for workplace accommodations and surrounding yourself with people who make you feel a little more comfortable with being disabled.

Disability pride means connecting with the disability community in ways that feel right for you. It’s reaching out to disabled friends and sharing experiences or taking a break from talking about disability in order to recharge.  It’s accessing support in any way you’d like and finding disability narratives that resonate with you if you don’t yet openly identify as disabled. It’s knowing that the disability community is vast, diverse and eager to embrace you when you’re ready — even if you aren’t ready yet.

Disability pride means allowing yourself to feel all of the emotions that come with being disabled. It’s grieving the body or mind you once had or never had, letting yourself feel angry or stuck or frustrated with your life. It’s feeling frustrated with the way your disability presents itself and knowing that even if you have privilege in the disability community, you’re still allowed to be frustrated with the challenges you face. It’s feeling devastated when you can’t access public places and still choosing to leave the house and navigate the world in any way you can.

Disability Pride Month can feel isolating for those who don’t feel proud of their disability identities, but disability pride isn’t limited to self-love, self-acceptance and connection. It’s about caring for your disabled body when you don’t love it, advocating for your needs and resting when you feel physically or mentally exhausted. It’s about choosing when and how to connect with the disability community. And above all else, it’s about having hope that even if you don’t take pride in your disability now, someday you might feel proud of being disabled.

Getty image by Grandfailure.

Originally published: July 21, 2021
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