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Why I'm Outraged At Dr. Phil's Ableist Comments as a Disabled Psychologist

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“100 out of 100 relationships that involve caregiving fail.” — Dr. Phil

Dear Dr. Phil,

You claim to use the “power of television” to tell stories about real people’s lives, but on this occasion what you said was entirely false. From one psychologist (who happens to have cerebral palsy) to another, your statement was not only unprofessional, but just unnecessary. Your words singlehandedly undermined many disabled people’s personal lives as well as their self-esteem and self-worth.

As a single person with a disability, I do not know what my future holds, but I do know that if I’m ever lucky enough to have a partner, I will happy meet their needs just like they will meet mine. Love does not switch off because someone has extra care needs, nor is it conditional on someone staying well. If anything, I imagine it can bring a special, intimate quality to the relationship. Caring for someone might bring extra demands to a relationship because of a lack of access to the right equipment, healthcare, housing or support services — but this is a social issue, not a personal one.

A (potentially) harder relationship does not mean it’s impossible — and all relationships have challenges and require hard work. So why does caring for someone automatically equate to failure over any of the other stressors couples often face? Caregiver and partner do not have to be separate roles.

What about if your partner breaks their leg or gets the flu — should you just file for divorce immediately? I know I’m being flippant, but words are powerful and with your platform, they gain extra power. Whether you realized it or not, through your words you are feeding into the view that those with disabilities are less likely to succeed in love and life.

Our community can already be hard enough on ourselves, so for you to feed into this view is damaging. You speak as if you have evidence-based statistics behind your words, but I have yet to see them. If you had some level of real life experience you could speak from, I would consider your point, however as you don’t, I can only say your words are nonsense. As someone who is trained in the power of words and their effect on human behavior, you should know better. We should be supporting one another and empowering one another to live life in our best way instead of making ableist assumptions.

To everyone else, care as hard as you can for the people you love and do not waste another second caring about Dr. Phil’s words.

Originally published: March 17, 2019
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