My Disability Is Not Your Problem

I could stop the post with just the title. Pick any one of my disabilities/health issues, or any combination, and then realize: not your problem.

I suspect this needs more unpacking, though, because I’ve encountered various forms of resistance. Some people get defensive when I need to take care of myself, and some people want to do too much for me, and some people think “people like me” are dangerous.

So, for the first: If we’re doing something together, whatever that thing may be, and I realize I need to stop doing the thing in order to let my body rest, I will say so and do so. This is not about you. It does not make you a bad person, whether you continue on with said activity or not. It simply means my body needs to rest. Often I can’t walk very far, and I definitely can’t walk very fast most of the time. Sometimes this is a knee/hip problem, sometimes this is an ankle problem, sometimes this is a migraine problem. Whatever the case may be, if I need to stop, I will, and this is about me, not you. It doesn’t mean I think you are a horrible person. I don’t think you ‘made’ me do anything. I simply must listen to my body or face more serious consequences later (and by ‘later,’ I might mean ‘in five minutes’). And in most cases, I will have some form of solitary entertainment with me (phone, book), so I will be fine on my own while you have fun completing the festival/fair/mall/etc. (The exception to this: sexy times, during which I likely won’t have a book {unless we’re reading sexy things to one another?}, and in which case I’m sure we could work something out.)

For the second: There’s a lot I can’t do a lot of the time. Right now I have arthritis in my neck in such a way that using my shoulders/neck can cause a really painful all-day migraine the next day. So I have to be careful. That said, there are things I can do, and I really hate feeling useless. Doing AllTheThings for me because of my potential for pain means I’ll likely end up sitting here feeling like a burden to everyone around me, particularly those who live with me. Let me do things that I feel I can do. If it turns out they cause me pain–then let me find something else I can do. But let me do things! I want to be useful and helpful.

For the third: There’s a lot of stigma surrounding people with mental health issues. We get pigeonholed a lot as dangerous, criminal, etc. However, the vast majority of us really aren’t. For my part, I am every bit as capable of thinking through complex issues and arriving at peaceful solutions as the next person–possibly more so, given the gun- and prison-loving nature of the USA. I’ve graduated at the top of all my classes, including #1 in graduate school. I’m a theologian. I support gun restrictions, Black Lives Matter, police reforms, liberation theology, inclusive and intersectional feminism, womanism, consent culture, inclusive sex education at all ages, mental health awareness and education, ecotheology, RACK and SSC, polyamory…. I support conflict resolution and learning when to walk away. And, while a lot of these things may be ‘dangerous’ to the status quo, they’re not violently dangerous; they’re not criminal. And they do not have a thing to do with my mental health. My mental health status is one part of me, not my totality, and so to label me as a danger purely because of that is to miss all the other things about me.

In sum, my disability/ies is/are not your problem. I’ll take care of me, and I want to be useful, and I’m not a danger. If I need help, I’ll ask. In the meantime, let’s enjoy one another’s company.

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