I was 29 when I was first described as disabled.
Written on a diagnosis I had paid for,
The word jumped out at me as though it was the first time I’d ever seen it.
I didn’t know why, but I cried.
I was plunged into a world I’d only ever seen from the sidelines
I picked up my private prescription and the pharmacist commented how expensive it was.
Like they didn’t know the cost of medicine.
I was beginning to understand, so I sighed.
And it wasn’t just one prognosis I faced, though the other was self diagnosis.
A realisation that I’d been kept from my reality for over 15 years.
That pain for no reason isn’t normal, and maybe..
That’s a disability.
A battle raged within me as I came to terms with this internalised prejudice against myself I hadn’t known was there.
An anger for the systemic ableism I had not been taught existed so I had not learnt to fight,
And a relief for the explanation that I had needed for so long but not realised.
I was tired.
I finally heard my body, and I was tired.
And the poetic nature was not lost on me, as someone who always tries to use their privilege to help others, as someone who tells their friends to rest when they are reaching their limit, as someone who always saw themselves as…
The well child.
To have not recognised it in myself.
To still feel as though I am stealing the words from someone else when I say I am disabled.
They are not dirty words, nor a curse.
They are not an admission of weakness nor are they something to be pitied.
They are not shameful nor seeking attention.
They are simply stating a fact.
I wonder why the word was never used before.
Perhaps the doctors thought they were helping me, with no official diagnosis maybe they thought it was a kindness to not label me as …
Or does my disability not fit in a tick box, so with no box to tick, it’s easier to avoid the paperwork.
Would having called me disabled at 15 years of age been too much for me? For the services I might have been able to access? For the people around me? For you?
Did the stigma the word has put them off from committing to identifying my reality?
Whatever the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that I am disabled.
And the activist in me is rising once again as I now understand another part of myself I was
I am fired up.
I am learning my limits, but I. Am. Fired up.
- Becki Short (August 2020)