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Check your ableism. I’m not bragging.

Check your ableism. I’m not bragging.

chronic illness chronic pain disabled life rare disease Sep 17, 2020

Written in 2017. Edited in 2020.

Each day I see more and more ableist attitudes. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a word to describe this before, or maybe it’s because I have experienced so much ableist trauma that parts of my brain had to block it out. More likely it’s a combination of the two.

I recognize that in the current state of the world, the personal experiences of what I am writing about in this post may seem like small potatoes to some, but it’s something that I have repeatedly seen over the years that I feel needs to be addressed. The impact I discuss here reaches much further than just this one facet of my personal story.

I can’t unsee all the times where disabled people have made meaningful contributions to our communities, yet it was not looked at or appreciated in the same manner as if an able-bodied person had made the contribution. I have seen comments that elude to a disabled person only being praised because they are disabled. Or comments that include inspiration porn, pity, or talking down to disabled adults like they are children. (Note: For those who do not know, “inspiration porn” is the portrayal of disabled people as being inspirational solely on the basis of them being disabled)

Here comes the “small potatoes” part: When I accomplish something I’m passionate about (a PowerPoint presentation for pain patients, writing an article, presenting at a medical conference, etc.) I tend to respond with the excitement of a kid in a candy store. I talk about it, I may be overly enthusiastic, I share with others.

Picture: Assortment of candy.

However, over the years this has been largely misinterpreted. People have viewed me as bragging, boastful, and have the impression that I think I’m better than others.

Anyone who truly knows me and understands my context knows that these things are furthest from the truth. I react in what may come off in an arrogant way because I’m proud that I accomplished something I view as a contribution to the pain community. I also am proud that I made this contribution while having an active pain or fatigue flare, while recovering from neurosurgery or a CSF leak, while actively sick with COVID, etc.

When you think I’m bragging about my accomplishments, it’s because you clearly do not understand the context.

So what if I am proud of what I do?! I know the hard work and dedication it takes behind the scenes. I live with the consequences of doing these things, because it’s these things that I love that also cause severe pain and fatigue flares. Since when did being proud of your accomplishments equate to being a stuck-up bragger?

I also respond in this excited way because any task isn’t as straightforward for me as perhaps it is for many people without physical disabilities or people who are neurotypical. Projects take me longer because of how my brain works: brain fog, fatigue flare, pain flare, spinal injury…

Picture: Overloaded brain pathways.

This is not a pity party, this is my reality. To be clear, I’m not expecting a medal nor do I want to be celebrated for doing things “because I am disabled.” I just wish people would try to understand my context so perhaps they would celebrate accomplishments with me, instead of looking at ways to judge.

It’s hurtful to see others being congratulated for doing marathons and the like, but I share something I am doing for the direct benefit of people with disabilities, and it’s not celebrated in the same way. This feels very ableist to me and doesn’t just hurt me, it impacts the disability community as a whole.  


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