Hello, I’m Shannon and I’m guest blogging on Sophie’s blog today. You can usually find me on Little Sea Bear, discussing many disabled-related topics, along with book reviews, writing and student life.
One of the issues that happens a lot when you have a disability is someone telling you that you should believe something, and it will somehow, magically stop you from being disabled. I get it even though I am not as visibly disabled as other people with the same condition as me.
Like Sophie, I have Spastic Cerebral Palsy. Specifically, I have Right Hemiplegia—that is, my right side is paralysed to some level.
So, when someone meets me for the first time, it is not always obvious that I have cerebral palsy. I can walk, but with a limp. I can use my left hand well, but not my right. This is usually the giveaway. People notice me doing a task that is usually two-handed and either struggling or doing it in such a way that I can complete the task with one hand.
This is when the comments start:
“You could try Yoga, that will help”
“Would you take a pill to cure you if you could?”
“Find Jesus and he will heal you”
I don’t get this as much as people I know. People who are clearly disabled because they have an aide that someone can see. My foot splint is concealed by my socks. The support when walking is not that noticeable as I hold the hand of people with me or use my laptop bag almost as if it is a walking stick.
But someone who has a clearly visible aide will get these comments all the time.
Find Jesus and he will heal you
Now I don’t care if you are religious.
That is your choice. You believe that the world was created by a god or several gods and that’s awesome. But do not approach me, do not approach my friends or anyone else who you can see is disabled and tell me that if we only believe in this god or that god, he will heal us.
In fact, there are people who have disabilities that do have religious faith, and that’s great for them.
Just don’t tell me what to believe in. Okay?
I respect your views, please respect mine and my friends’. My friend zooms around town in her wheelchair, going about her day, as usual, then she is stopped by a person promoting their faith. Nothing wrong with that until he targets her disability. He told her that if-if she believed hard enough she could get out of her chair and walk.
Do people really not know how offensive that sounds?
It is exactly like saying, “The way you are now is not normal. You should be able to walk. There is something wrong with you.”
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING IN A WHEELCHAIR!
I don’t think people realise how much the human species can adapt. My friend can do some things that I cannot do in ways that I would not be able to do them, despite being in a chair and only having one hand.
What is walking, really, aside from sore, aching feet, blisters and pain?
Believe in your faith, but do not tell me or another person that there is something wrong with us.
You should try Yoga or Tai Chi.
Okay. This one causes a lot of arguments between myself and a friend of mine. Don’t get me wrong. She is a great friend. Kind, lovely. Really sweet and supportive. But when it comes to this one comment I stop listening.
She has a point in one aspect when it comes to Tai Chi and that is my mental health. I have anxiety and Tai Chi is known to help with breathing which is a technique that helps with anxiety. So I can see the benefit of this, but this is never mentioned in discussions, it is more about my physical disability. She claims that Tai Chi is able to cure my physical disability. That is when I stop listening.
If it was just the mental health aspect, I would honestly say to her that I would try it. But at the moment, the whole debate of it curing my physical disability is making me too wound up to actually try Tai Chi for my mental health, and that’s a shame because I do actually need help with my mental health.
Similarly, there have been people on Twitter thread started by @crippledscholar recently who have been told by many able-bodied people to try Yoga for the same reason. CrippledScholar’s tweet got a huge reaction within minutes so I am not the only disabled person who is told that a form of exercise will cure them.
Yes, these exercises have benefits, and you are more than welcome to talk about them, but do not claim that my disability or anyone else’s can be cured by participating in this exercise. And don’t try and convince us to do an exercise if we say that we are not interested in at the moment. We may have found one that benefits us just as much, and trying to persuade us to do an exercise we are either unable to do or are just not interested in with claims of healing will make us feel uncomfortable.
Maybe we will consider it, but the more you tell us about it and it’s magical healing the more we will shut the door on it. I know there is no magical healing for my disability and just like saying that “God will heal you” by saying an exercise will heal me, you are saying there is something wrong with me.
There is nothing wrong with being disabled. I can live a normal life, I do the same activities only differently.
Would you take a pill if it cured you?
Again, this is a popular question amongst able-bodied people and I get that people are curious but it’s like the other two in a way. It is pointing out that I, my friends, anyone who is mentally ill or who has a disability in one form or another is not normal. We need to be “cured” and “changed” so that we can fit in with society.
So the question is asked: “Would you take a pill if there was a cure.” A cure? I’m disabled. I’m not ill or dying, why would there be a cure? You mean that my hand doesn’t work like yours, my leg gets tired quicker, the pain I get in winter or when I am tired or just out of random? Would I get rid of all that?
The answer is no. I have lived with this condition since birth, if I took a pill to cure it, it would be changing part of who I am. I am not broken, I am just different. It is the same for many people. People with autism, people with congenital conditions that cause their life to be a little bit different from other people.
Yes, My hand will randomly scratch me or will refuse to go where I tell it to, that’s without asking it to pick something up. But that is who I am. I have been me for 22 years and I don’t want to change that.
This is really what the other points boil down to. Really, they are the same question but asked differently, and that question is “are you happy the way you are?”
Personally, I am. At least, with my physical disability.
I struggle to cope more with my anxiety but I feel that this might be because it is a new diagnosis for me and I don’t actually know what that means for me at the moment. It feels that it takes control of me and disables me more than my disability has ever done but there is help out there and I am taking it and no, I am not taking a pill for it—though some people do, either because they need to or because they find it helps and that is fine too.
But I am doing it my way, learning to live with this new condition and getting the help I need when I need it. Just like I have always done.
Because there is and never has been anything wrong with me. I’m just different. Nothing more.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion whether they are able-bodied or disabled. However, the problem comes when the able-bodied person tries to push their views, whether that is faith, health benefits or other, onto a disabled individual, highlight the difference and indirectly saying that there is something wrong with them.
People should respect that many disabled people are happy with who they are. Yes, there will be some out there who would cure their condition but in my experience, it is few and far between. We like who we are. We make our disability part of us, we are not our disability.
Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed it. Please do check out my blog at Little Sea Bear.