GUEST POST: Why It’s Hard to Reveal My Disability to Strangers

By Kella Hanna-Wayne

A dancer on a dark background with title of post in white

CN: ableism, chronic pain

With every new person I meet, I have to gauge just how much to tell them about my disability. I try to be as open as possible about my health issues because I want to reinforce the idea that people who look like me- young, relatively fit, no noticeable limitations- can also be disabled. But being open about my disability means opening myself to potential scrutiny of my body, my diet, my medications, my exercise routine. Any decision I make about my physical health becomes fair game for intrusive questions. Until I get to know a person better, I have to assume they will default to treating me as if my health history is in the public domain.

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GUEST POST: Why It’s Hard to Reveal My Disability to Strangers
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Guest Post: A Night at The Opera: How A Blind Date Got Blind-Sighted By Humanity

CN: Ableism, Threats of Violence,

It’s been a hard week for me. Today was the first day I could walk semi- normally after crashing my e-bike into a car on Thursday.My legs are black and blue. I’ve got whiplash, sore muscles, and have spent the last several days in bed with icepacks at the ready.

I was happy to be feeling better today, because tonight I was going to see “Phantom of the Opera” at the NAC with my 11 year old niece.

Being barely able to move, with my legs looking like a cross between a gorilla and a black and blue elephant, and not to mention that fabric on my legs is extreme agony, I opted to wear some comfortable pants and running shoes. I wasn’t going to risk falling again by wearing heels, or risk having a miserable evening by wearing clothes that hurt my legs, or revealed their startling mosaic of bruised hairy nightmares to the whole NAC. Pants are definitely more respectful.

When we arrived at our seats, sitting directly ahead of me was someone I knew. The person who told me Phantom was in town and one of the reasons I bought tickets for this showing for this specific section. This way I’d have someone nearby that I knew, and my anxiety wouldn’t be as bad. When we get to our seats, I see that she’s there. So far, so good.

I said hello as I sat down. She looks at me with disgust in her eyes. “Really? You couldn’t dress up? This is the NAC, Sophie, you’re an embarrassment.” Well. I’m sure my hairy black and blue legs would have been more so, thank you very much. The safety zone I’d planned on wasn’t going to happen, clearly, but I had a backup plan. I took out my Anxiety Duck. He comes with me to my appointments all the time, and helps keep me calm. Again, my “friend” felt the need to comment: “Really? Put that away. You’re humiliating me.” OK fine. Guess who’s on ignore the rest of the evening.

Continue reading “Guest Post: A Night at The Opera: How A Blind Date Got Blind-Sighted By Humanity”

Guest Post: A Night at The Opera: How A Blind Date Got Blind-Sighted By Humanity

The Emotional Labour of Asking for Help

I think one of the hardest things for me to learn after I became disabled, was when to slow down, and when to ask for help. We talk about the energy cost that comes with living with chronic illness, but accepting it is still a process. Coming to terms with the fact that you can’t do certain things is hard. You’re determined not to let being sick change you, but you have no choice. You have to. Because you are different now. There are things you cannot do, and moving on and becoming yourself means coming to terms with that.

What many people don’t understand is that it’s not a onetime thing.

It happens again every time we have to ask for help.

Society tells us, as well as everyone in our lives, that we are a burden and that that is all we can be. No matter how much we learn that it is not the case, it is still hard not to internalize that message. The message is passed along in the media around us – with disability being presented as the worst possible thing that can happen to anyone, and in the reactions of people around us.

When Alyssa and I were together for example, it was not uncommon for members of her family to question her as to what good our relationship was with me being so broken. When she had called her mother to announce our engagement, what should have been happy news was instead met with a sense of mounting horror and dramatic exclamations of “no, no, no”. Later when discussing it with her father, the concerns about tying your fortunes to a disabled person came up again. When I was with my ex before Alyssa, so many people would tell me over and over again that I was lucky to have found someone who was willing to stay with me. I think the worst however, was when a friend who also happened to be Alyssa’s partner tried to talk me out of getting a dog to train as a service dog for myself by bringing up how much Alyssa already had to do around the house.

Although it was never flat out said, the implication was obvious. I was a burden.

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The Emotional Labour of Asking for Help

Ableism at Kanata Centrum Almost Killed Me

Today, I decided to take a break from the manual labour I’ve been doing, while trying to rebuild my office. I had a plan for the day: I was going to grab my wheelchair, take the bus down to the strip mall that has the dollar store, value village, and Michael’s that I’ve been wanting to browse for some time. With the chair, I would be able to actually take my time and look around the stores. Get to know what is really available, without the distraction of my spine starting to seize up and burn.

It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for travelling around the city. Being in the chair let me explore areas that I can’t see in a car. I found out that there is a great path down by the river underneath Carp Bridge. I was able to do some poke-hunting, and explore the park with the lakes down on Terry Fox. It was perfect.

I was heading back to the bus that would take me back to my own neighbourhood. I was hoping to relax a little under the stars in the park, before finally heading back home. Kanata Centrum is a big strip mall with several different sections, all connected by sidewalks. It’s also where I had to go to get to my bus. I was making my way along the sidewalks coming up to a road crossing. At the end of the sidewalk however, instead of the dip that serves as a ramp, it ended in a straight curb.
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Ableism at Kanata Centrum Almost Killed Me

Casual Ableism

CN: Ableism, Police Violence, Sexual Violence, etc.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed late at night, I came across a Jezebel article on the subject of the Fascist authoritarian in control of the US. In contrast to all of the serious articles going around this week, and especially this weekend after Trump triggered a constitutional crisis with a hateful law targeting Muslims and immigrants of color, the jokey nature of the headline and article stood out. It was mocking the newly sworn in president for an alleged fear of stairs.

To most people, the idea of a grown man being afraid of stairs seems silly and joke-worthy, but it made my stomach drop.

You see, in a sense, I am afraid of stairs.

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Casual Ableism

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

 

CN: uncensored used of the word r*pe, dv myths

I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.

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Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

Does chronic illness or a disability make you unfit for office?

Recently Hillary Clinton excused herself from an event, after which pictures were circulated that seemed to show her fainting as she was being helped into a van by her agents. The picture made the rounds almost immediately people were discussing the possibility that she had an invisible illness or some invisible disability that she had not disclosed.

This isn’t the first time that Clinton’s health has been under discussion. Earlier this summer, pictures of what appeared to be some sort of injection medication like an epi pen or other similar meds was seen being carried by her agents. The rumour mill started circulating that she experienced seizures as well as other theories about her health.

The search for reasons why this particular candidate is unfit for presidency is likely motivated by a desperate desire by people who usually begrudgingly support the Democratic Party in other years, and those who don’t support the party at all, to find some reason other than her gender for why they don’t want her to be president. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of valid reasons not to like Clinton, but I can’t help but notice how the discourse has changed from past elections with equally questionable but male candidates. Regardless of the likely sexist motive underlying the reason why the question came up, does chronic illness or disability make you unfit to run for or to be President?

Short Answer: No. And the question itself is Ableist.

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Does chronic illness or a disability make you unfit for office?

When Society Echoes your Troll Brain

CN: Discussion of Ableism, Mental Health, and Suicide

If you suffer from Anxiety or Depression, or have friends and family who do, you may be familiar with the concept of troll brain. It is the thought manifestations of your disorders: lies your own brain tells you in order to prey on your fears and insecurities. Part of learning to cope with anxiety and depression is learning to recognize those thoughts that are lies, which are your brain trolling you, and separating them from your real thoughts. It’s not easy, especially since your brain obviously knows you better than anyone else. It’s the manifestation of all of your fears. That you are worthless. That no one loves you.

But what happens when society reinforces the same ideas as your troll brain? What happens when the message you are given everywhere you look reminds you that the vast majority of society agrees with the lies your brain tells you. This is the reality for many disabled people. In some cases it is a contributory cause of their depression and anxiety.

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When Society Echoes your Troll Brain

I Didn’t Mean it That Way

CN: Ableist Slurs and discussion of other slurs.

Earlier this month, I recorded an interview (p1, p.2) on the Atheistically Speaking podcast. During the discussion, the subject of ableist language came up and rapidly turned into a debate. While the conversation was happening I misunderstood part of what Thomas was saying. During the argument he kept suggesting that using the word gay as a pejorative was different than using one like crazy or lame because it only had the one meaning. While I didn’t understand entirely what he was getting at at the time, I believe I do now. He meant that when people use the word gay to denote something bad, they are aware of the related meaning and therefore mean the associated bigotry, whereas many people are no longer aware of the non-pejorative meaning of ableist words.

I understand where he is coming from. It is back to that old argument of intent versus result. Many people believe that if their intention is not to insult the people who may be associated with the label, then the usage should not be counted as a slur. Taking it further, if most people are unaware of the original meaning, then how does it continue to be harmful?.

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I Didn’t Mean it That Way