I wanted to talk about the language we use.
So much of what is common vernacular, that many of us think nothing of saying because we believe we have no ill intent, is hurtful and damaging.
This could include sayings that are racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist.
But, what I want to focus on is ableist language.
I am a person with disabilities. I am open about that. My conditions are, mostly, invisible, so, when people see me, they see a woman, usually in a pretty frock, with her hair in flowers, being happy and enthusiastic. Some will make judgements about my size, or about my abundant grey hairs. Others will notice my energy and my smile. But they don’t see my disabilities. Just like they don’t see the disabilities millions of other people are living with.
In the last two days, in interactions I’ve had, by the language people have used, they have demonstrated their feelings towards people living with any health conditions. They probably won’t be aware that their words are indicating their beliefs; they would probably believe that they are very kind and considerate when they meet someone that lives with a disability.
I thought I would share some of the things I’ve heard; some weren’t directed at me, because they didn’t know I have disabilities; others were.
In the introductory session of a networking meeting, we were asked to talk about what we like, what we enjoy; lovely! I thought.
Several people said that they value their health, which is great, as it has great value, then they followed it up with:
Without my health, I have nothing.
I. Have. Nothing.
What this says to me, is that, if we’re not healthy, we can’t have full, rich lives. We can’t have fun or excitement. We can’t have love and adventures.
Because, without health, “I have nothing”.
This devalues my life and the life of every human that cannot be classed as healthy because of the nature of our conditions.
“I have nothing” tells me that you don’t think my life is worth living because I am not healthy.
I. Have. Nothing.
This means that having a partner that loves and adores me means nothing.
This means all the lives I have had a positive impact on mean nothing.
This means all the fun and adventures I have mean nothing.
Now, when someone says, “Without my health, I am nothing”, I have no doubts that they don’t mean to imply all that, but they do. I have no doubts that they have probably not thought about that sentence much; they probably don’t think about it’s implication. The thing is, so far, they haven’t needed to, so they don’t understand how hurtful it can be.
They probably also haven’t thought how fragile health can be. How, sometimes, in literally one moment, our health can be taken from us, through a random accident or incident; they don’t think how likely it is that many of us will get cancer or dementia, or another life limiting condition.
I want you to think about all you have in your life; all the people you love; all the things you enjoy; all the adventures you have. If your health was taken away from you, do those people mean less? Does living mean less?
I’ve also been told by a few people that, if I did this or that treatment, I would “feel more me”.
In the words of the amazing song, this is me!!
I’m in pain every single second of every single day. There are things I struggle to do. There are things I can’t do. A large part of the time, I’m beyond tired. I have to plan everything, right to planning I have the money, or a willing driver, to ensure I can get home from wherever I am in the country because my energy levels can change rapidly, as can my levels of pain. Without doubt, these things are difficult to live with.
Through my illnesses, I have learned more about who I am. I have learned how strong I am. How determined I am. I have set myself challenges and surpassed them. I have had adventures I never could have dreamed of. I have people in my life I love. I run a business I am passionate about. I’m not healthy by many people’s standards, but my life is full; full of love, kindness, and happiness.
Acceptance of myself and everyone else.
Yes, I’m a person living with disabilities but that is not all of who I am.