I’m an introspective person, and one of the questions I’ve been struggling with is whether or not I officially qualify as having a physical disability.
On the surface, this seems like an easy question. Am I limited in doing my daily tasks? Yes. Am I able to be active in the things I used to do, without the assistance of a mobility aid? No. Should I just ask my doctor for the parking sticker so I can park closer and stop killing my ankle? Yeah, probably. I experience debility on the daily; I don’t have the same energy I used to have and I have to be careful of how much I use my ankle. My sleep is sketchy because I’m in enough pain most of the time that it wakes me up, even if I’m not aware of it.
The biggest part of roblem I see is with is whether I have enough of a disability to add this to part of my identity. I should get my full mobility back, but at this rate, it will be at least another six months. I don’t want to be a bad white girl ally and claim something I have no right to claim. I definitely got the side-eyed looks from people at Costco for using a wheelchair, when they bothered to look at me at all. Does she really need that wheelchair? Is she just lazy? Nothing looks wrong with her.
But the more I think about this, the more I think I’m parroting an ableist narrative that separates those with a disability and those without. Instead of seeing disabilities as a wide variety of conditions and issues, affecting people of all ages, with varying symptoms, I am trying to make myself conform to what I think disability should look like. I’ve uncovered my own bias that a disability should affect you all the time.
Maybe by not just accepting that I have a disability, I’m being an even worse white girl ally by not proudly standing with those who don’t look like I think they ought to, all the time.
While social media can be a cesspool, in this case, it was integral to me accepting the extra help that I need to really function right now. The Twitterverse gave me quite a few threads to follow, including #wheelchairlife and #ableismexists. They’ve both helped me examine my current beliefs and accept where I’m at right now.
My wheelchair gives me freedom. It’s a tool. I was the happiest idiot in Costco because I wasn’t in pain and I could still shop. My boyfriend happily pushed me around because he wasn’t worried about me falling because my ankle joint is being a jerk (it’s rolled twice out of the blue in as many weeks, and I’m counting myself lucky I haven’t re-ripped tendons).
TL;DR version? In marginalizing myself, I marginalized others. I’m sorry. I will do and be better.