Demeaning Disability

My personal perspective on disability is first hand. My mom has always been a hard worker and stubborn soul. She had moved out at seventeen to pay for her own apartment and became the manager of a construction team for the next 15 years. After starting our family she had an accident that caused severe RSD in her left leg, leaving her disabled for the rest of her life. RSD stands for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy RSD is sometimes called Type I Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which is triggered by tissue injury where there is no underlying nerve injury. Both RSD and CRPS are chronic conditions characterized by severe burning/stabbing pain. Since the injury, my mom is extremely sensitive to touch and is restricted from walking, standing, or sitting for long periods of time. She no longer could work on the job or let alone sig in an office; she had to apply for disability and register for unemployment. She lost a lot of her sense of control that day and hasn’t felt like her true self. Society uses the meaning of disability to demean those with difficulties when the reality is that these people are more strong willed than the rest of us.

Getting the same attributes as my mother, I too refused a lot of help naturally. I wanted to learn on my own and even once I realized my own obstacles of anxiety and depression for years I denied therapy. I hadn’t realized its severity until high school when stressors were a lot more consistent. I had a good friend pass away sophomore year that took a piece of me with him. I shut down completely inside and out. My body physically couldn’t cope from the emotions. Earlier in the year I had lost my job due to an insensitive manager misunderstanding an anxiety attack as a way out of a dinner rush.

I felt detached from everything. I truly learned what happened behind closed doors. My thoughts kept me awake at night until I found that poetry silenced the screams long enough for me to fall asleep. I soon realized writing poetry was my saving grace. Literally saving my life using the pain I felt as exercise; learning how my body feels before an attack, the racing of my heart, the heating of cheeks as tears well for no concise reason. I used these details as a swan song, an ode to anxiety, showing the relationship between the human condition and poetry as a whole. A disability is not a lack of ability, but rather the heightening of inner will power and motivation for doing whatever you set your mind to; whether people believe and support you or not.

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6 thoughts on “Demeaning Disability

  1. This is truly a touching story. I am terrible sorry for the events that have happened but I’m pleased to see that you have found such relief in poetry. In my spare time I read and write a lot of poetry so I find it really cool how someone else can appreciate such a unique form of art.

  2. I love hearing how much writing has helped people through their struggles. I also found writing as a coping mechanism for dealing with stuff I was going through. I think your story is a great testament to what we’re looking at as far as “disability.” When people hear the word “disability” they tend to think of physical disability, yet your story shows how challenging mental health struggles can be, and how they are often more invisible. Likewise, your mother’s story shows how disability can effect anyone. I think people sometimes view the disabled as lazy, or as mooching off the system, which is so far from the truth, as truly good, hard-working people can be truly impaired by physical or mental ailment. Everyone needs help at some point or another.

  3. This is a great post that highlights the importance of making sure that disability is talked about more often. The more people understand disability, the better it can be accommodated in work and school. All people deserve to have an equal chance and get the support they need. I think thats really cool that poetry has helped you so much. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Love this! As I’ll say a lot this semester, Disability Justice is a Labor issue. The root cause of much stigma and ableism is the idea that the value of a person is the work they can produce (as if care and creativity don’t have their own value). And even when one knows intellectually that self-worth isn’t about work, so much of our society screams the contrary. It’s tough. I’m glad you’ve found respite in creative writing! It’s one of many paths to push against that culture of overwork and value things differently.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post, I appreciate that you shared your story with you and your mother, and I’m sorry you had to experience this! I think writing is an amazing path to take to explore your mind and feelings and venture out to discover more. Also to release pain or thoughts that you might want to leave behind.

  6. I wanted to start my response by sincerely thanking you for sharing so much. It sounds like you haven’t had the easiest go at it by the sound of things, and I really admire you perseverance. I also found your story quite relatable. A few years ago I had a similar sort of episode to the one that you describe. Things weren’t easy. Going to school while you’re trapped in swirling circles of distress and depression can be tough. Like you though, I fond solace in writing. I took a creative writing course with Liz Ahl, and that helped me hone my emo scribbles into a piece of text that, while emo as all hell, was something polished and that I could be proud of. I also started journaling before I slept. And while this isn’t as creative of an endeavor as writing poetry, I think both practices share a similar sort of calm that you find when you’ve sorted your thoughts out onto a sheet of paper. So yeah, thanks for your post, and I hope you’re holding up these days.

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