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To the Girl Who 'Just Doesn’t See Me as Disabled'

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To the girl who “just doesn’t see me as disabled,”

I know you’ve grown up to see “disabled” as a dirty word, and I know you’re trying to be nice when you say this — but I am disabled. First of all, I don’t mind the label; it’s a part of my identity and a quick way to explain why I can’t do certain things. Erasing the stigma and the lack of awareness around invisible disabilities is incredibly important, and by assuming a disability has to be physically obvious to you, you are a part of the problem.

Secondly, with all due respect, you’ve never seen me on a bad day. Sure, you’ve seen me taking pain meds at work, or having to sit down after going up a flight of stairs. But you’ve never seen me collapse on my dorm room floor exhausted and on the verge of passing out from a trip to the grocery store. You’ve never seen me lie in bed all day, vomiting from both the pain and the pain meds that are supposed to help. You don’t understand that the minute I walk into an unfamiliar place I’m scanning for a place to sit down, and wondering if I should have used my wheelchair for the day.

So please, the next time we are having an honest conversation about my disability and illnesses, don’t tell me what I am and what I am not, and don’t cringe at the word disabled.  Know that you are not the expert on this topic, and listen when people with disabilities talk.

Originally published: August 9, 2016
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