‘Passing’ as not disabled & all the conflicting emotions it brings
Society has such a narrow view if disability I’ve found it hard to identify as disabled, despite the fact I live with two chronic conditions that affect my ability to live my life ‘normally’ which fits the definition of disability used in UK law. I feel trapped sometimes.
I have been insulted for calling myself disabled as I am ‘not disabled enough’ and this is apparently an insult to those more disabled than me.
I try to fake it as ‘normal’ and suffer burn out , emotional & physical.
I don’t ‘look disabled’ according to the dominant very narrow view if disability. In the past I have used mobility aids such as sticks & a wheelchair but I don’t need to at the moment. I am a lot healthier than I used to be and aware of the privilege this affords me, but I’m still far from what I’d term ‘abled’ or ‘not – disabled’.
I can’t cope with a 9-5 day, my sleep pattern is fucked & I nap for about 2-3 hours everyday, some days where I have something special to do I can manage a ‘normal’ day but I can’t keep it up on a regular basis & I usually pay for it afterwards, having a few days or even weeks where I am much more fatigued and achey than usual.
In many ways passing as abled is a privilege, I escape the abuse aimed at the visibly disabled. Yet it has it’s problems, if I need extra help with things I often face a lengthy explanation of my health (which isn’t fun as it can bring up a lot if emotions I find hard to deal with especially as I have depression too & emotional resilience is not my forte). So often these explanations end up with a realisation I don’t fit into any if the neat categories of ‘disabled’ we (by ‘we’ I mean our predominantly abled society in general) are used to dealing with and thus no one is quite sure what to do with me. The irony of this is, I don’t suffer from any rare conditions; I have m.e/cfs and depression, illnesses that affect millions in the UK. Yet my history of support, from my interrupted and inadequate education to troubles with employment has been one of ‘falling through the cracks’, with viewed suggestions my situation is rather unusual and that people can’t possible be expected to deal with it and oh why can’t they just build a ramp and be done with it? Very few professionals meant to support me have had any clue what to do or have been able to do anything within the systems imposed upon them. So as my health has improved I’ve often found it easier to just struggle on as a ‘normal’ person than to navigate a flawed support system that seems confused by me and that requires extra work from me requiring time and energy I just don’t have. In university it was often easier to struggle with no support than to tire myself out chasing up support with all the extra forms, meetings, phone calls and emails this entailed.
In the last few years I have felt increasingly under attack as someone with invisible disabilities. The war on ‘benefit scroungers’ and the cuts to the welfare state are targeted at people like me. People who claim benefits but are seen down the pub, or walking down the road. We can’t possibly be deserving, after all we ‘look fine’ don’t we? This is especially troubling when mental health is brought into it and people start spurting out all that ‘just pull yourself together’ crap.
This relentless attack on disabled people has a horrible affect on my mental health. I’m afraid for my future, I’m scared to admit to people I’m on benefits, that I’m ill. I worry that if I fall out with someone they could report me for fraud (99%of claims to benefit fraud hotlines are malicious). I see friends and family going off into the world and having careers, I fear I’ll never have a career, certainly not one I can support myself on. I know that I an intelligent , that I have worth as a person, that I have skills but I know that capitalist society doesn’t value them, I can’t work enough to make money so why should I be educated? I feel wasted and washed up, stuck on a scrap heap and I’m barely 30. All that hurts, really fucking hurts. Reading things like the hashtag for benefits street or any other dehumanising propaganda shit they disguise as ‘media’. Politicians saying you’re ‘not worth the minimum wage’ , the endless attacks from the DWP about ‘fraud’, the judgement from strangers who feel entitled to judge whether you’re ‘really disabled’ based on nothing but ignorant assumptions. The pervasive mindset that because I don’t ‘work hard’ I don’t deserve to be supported. I feel like I don’t matter, because I can’t fit into the structures of a world designed around those without disabilities and I don’t get much of a chance to prove myself, my talents, my humanity. Mainstream political discourse of all directions sees me as either a nuisance or just doesn’t see me at all. Even those causes and movements that pertain to be ‘progessive’ often castigate me as an ‘armchair activist’, ‘not being a real activist’ or ‘just moaning online not doing anything’ because I can’t fit into their structures. Structures I have spent my life trying to force myself into, breaking myself to fit into other peoples boxes whilst they look on & don’t even consider making the boxes fit me.
I feel like it’s giving up too easily to give up on society but in truth it gave up on me.