Am I disabled? Am I really?
Just a simple comment from my mother and my whole world is shifted.
“You’re not disabled! Unless that’s what you’re striving for!”
I feel like my stomach and heart fell to the ground when she said that. I could only smile and move on. How do you explain yourself? How do you defend your validity? How do you say confidently that you’re disabled when it’s the last thing anybody wants?
My mother, by all rights, can be called disabled. But she rejects the word like some filthy beast. She doesn’t have to struggle to prove her disability to the world; they already see it. She’s on long-term disability leave/retired and on social security. She takes countless medications, high dosages of chemo, and struggles every single day to function.
But she doesn’t consider herself disabled.
I have anxiety and depression. Clinically, I’ve been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Disorder, and PTSD. I’ve been in therapy for a variety of reasons since I was in sixth grade. I’ve taken several different anti-depressants and anxiety drugs since high school.
While I also have asthma, peanut/tree nut allergies, and severe eczema, I’ve had those all my life. I’ve always had an emergency inhaler on hand, an epi-pen nearby, and have always been under a strict regime of lotions and topical steroids. Before I went to the hospital for suicidal ideation and a failed suicide attempt, I got by. I went through the days like a robot and functioned.
It’s 2018 and I’ve learned a lot about disabilities. I’ve learned so much since 2015, things I never thought I’d have the privilege of knowing. I learned about Psychiatric Service Dogs and, through multiple groups, about so many other things Service Dogs do. I learned about dog training, disabilities, mental and physical disorders, chronic illness, the spoonie theory, etc. I learned about POTS, EDS, Dysautonomia, etc. I learned that if somebody is in a wheelchair it doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t walk. I learned about different mobility tools, tricks, tips, hints, guides, and so much more when it came to coping and functioning as a human.
But am I disabled?
Things have changed. I still have panic attacks, but they happen every three months or so. I’m still suicidal and I struggle not to cry about 80% of the day. I still have flashbacks, paranoia, hypervigilance, and a flinch reflex that makes people look at me oddly. But I don’t have deep, in-depth flashbacks where I’m not aware of where I am. I don’t have nightmares and never have. I can go to work with minimal problem, holding a part-time job like I always have. I can talk to people and, sometimes, I can even talk to a random stranger as if it wasn’t a big deal. Anxiety still catches at my throat and stutters my words. Panic still causes me to hyperventilate as I sob hysterically about something easily fixed. Disassociation still causes me to discover new methods to try and stay focused. My asthma still causes my lungs to seize up and wheeze, leaving my chest sore. I’ve never run into eating a peanut/tree nut, but I always keep my epi-pen handy anyway. I’m on Methotrexate for my eczema and it seems to be helping somewhat, with easy to handle side effects.
Do I think I’m disabled? I don’t know… I think something within me wants to be though. Something that is so desperately tired of trying so much harder than anybody else. I feel like every achievement I make is nothing compared to those around me. I feel like I’m always constantly several steps behind my peers. I just want to be able to explain to everybody without giving my full medical workup WHY everything is so much harder. But even reading back on this post makes me sick to my stomach. I feel like I’m trying to convince you, reader, that I really am disabled. I don’t even feel like I can confidently write this without trying to get you to empathize with me. I can’t be unbiased, disjointed, or separated.
I’ve tried living normally. I’ve tried living without the constant reminder in the back of my head that I’m disabled and that’s why I’m struggling. I fear it’s become an automatic thought process though, something I just can’t shake loose. Is it because I want a service dog? Is it because I want validation? Is it because I just want attention? Why am I so determined to prove to the world that I’m disabled? What is the driving factor, the driving force, behind this intense desire to be validated when it comes to whether or not I’m disabled? Why do I even want to be considered disabled? I feel like a fake, a fraud. I feel like a cuckoo within the nest, crying desperately for food as my siblings starve beneath my fat body.
All it took was a few words from my mother, and suddenly my world is once again left in shambles.