Friday, October 21, 2011


I have been resisting defining myself as disabled, even temporarily. I have no doubt at all that this is because of ableism on my part, with a hefty dose of good old New England Puritan work ethic thrown in: those who can't do for themselves are lazy; not working is sin; anything other than complete self-reliance is weakness. Well, that last bit may be some of my own issues as well.

I've been working since I was 14. The only time I have not worked was because of layoffs. I returned to full time work after 7 weeks of maternity leave. I've worked up to three jobs at a time to make ends meet. I work.

But when my short-term disability claim was denied, I had to reconsider. I reflexively thought, "what are these people thinking? I CAN'T work right now, even though I want to." And then I recoiled against the truth of that thought.


It's the truth. I am temporarily unable. I am lucky in that this is not (I hope) a permanent situation. I will get better, with time and care.

But for now, I can't, and now I need to prove that for an appeal. That means embracing my status without judgment or shame. It's not easy, and it adds to my stress and depression, but it's the absolute truth.

When I used to do anti-oppression trainings, I used to say that if you don't see some kind of -ism as a privilege, you probably have that privilege. It's easy to recognize your own lack of privilege: ask a woman if sexism exists and she'll most likely tell you a dozen stories that prove that it does. Ask a queer person if heterosexism or genderism exists and they could open magazine and show you six examples in six seconds. But while I have recognized ableism as a sort of abstract problem, I had never experienced it on my own, and never had to confront it in my own self.

And here it is, another lesson sent to me by the universe to be learned the hard way. I am learning, I am getting better, and I will carry this lesson forever.

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