KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – This world we live in expects and rewards our self-cruelties. We’re rewarded for pushing ourselves too far, for sacrificing sleep and time and love in the name of success. We’re not supposed to take care of ourselves because that’s laziness. Anything we enjoy we feel guilty for. When we are disabled by illness we feel guilty having to ask for help or for taking time to allow ourselves to be sick.
I just don’t understand why we keep doing this? We bring children into this world, and when they can’t handle it we shrug our shoulders as if we don’t know exactly how this happens. We blame children when they get angry, when they scream and cry, when they can’t handle the extreme emotions that we have for some reason decided as a society we aren’t allowed to feel openly.
It’s as if we decided a long time ago that emotions – the most important, the most central part of what makes us human – are embarrassing and should be pushed down. Kindness and love are so rare in strangers that we are surprised when we find it in someone, but when someone is too kind, when someone loves too much, we find that embarrassing, too.
We put so much shame on being human. It’s exhausting.
I just don’t want to be a part of this anymore. I woke up today and I was so exhausted. I broke down, because I was so embarrassed of myself for having to ask for a second extension from my professor. I told myself that this world doesn’t want me to survive. This world fucking hates me. It’s set up to make me fail at every stage. The minute I get one disability under control, another one falls apart.
I had finally managed my ADHD and I was able to start working. I was so proud of myself for studying for two entire days straight. I bought into that bullshit that permeates our culture; that your work is shit if you haven’t spent hours and hours and hours destroying your body and mind for it. And then my eyes gave out. My eyes have gotten so bad that I can no longer read the books I need to read for the assignments I need to finish. I had to see an eye doctor and it will take weeks to get my eyes fixed.
While asking for an extension isn’t the end of the world, it sure feels like it when you’re disabled. Having to ask for an accommodation for my disabilities is really, really hard because it’s embarrassing that I can’t do things the way other students do. I don’t want to have extra help. I don’t want to be the student that is constantly emailing professors asking for them to lend me a hand just so I can keep my head above water. Even with that help I am still constantly at risk of drowning.
You know, the funny thing is that one of my assignments is an essay on the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. Part of the research I’ve done included reading hours of documents from various figures throughout the 1800s and 1900s in Germany, and all the things they had to say about disabled people. Did you know that during WWI they let patients in mental hospitals starve to death so they didn’t have to ‘waste’ resources on them?
One of the documents I had to read was titled “Permitting the Destruction of Unworthy Life.” It explained that, among other things, allowing the disabled to continue to live was nothing but an act of “great unselfishness” – that the abled do us a service by allowing us to live in their world.
It struck me that as awful as those one-hundred-and-something year old words are, that really is how society sees it. Society does act like it is doing us a service by allowing us to live. We are expected to beg for help when we need it and to feel ashamed for it. We are expected to be at the brink of death before we receive care for our mental health issues, and even then we often face indifference from doctors. People tells us that we aren’t trying hard enough, that “you weren’t really trying to kill yourself because you didn’t take enough pills. You just want attention, don’t you?”
As if any suffering person wants the world to know that they are failing to live up to society’s expectations. Many public buildings still remain inaccessible, many schools still push their students to the brink, many families still expect miracles from suffering children. When we do receive the help we need, it feels simultaneously like winning the lottery while having our pants pulled down by a bully.
Why can’t I just do the things everyone else does? Why does everything have to be so hard? I’ve lived in embarrassment every day of my life because I have been fighting reality. I’ve been fighting it because if I accept it, I am always going to be less than to society. I am always going to have my fears reaffirmed in the eyes of everyone around me. Yes, you are disabled. Yes, I can do this so much easier than you can. Yes, crying in the grocery store and leaving without buying anything is embarrassing. Yes, I got all perfect marks and I am able to maintain them because I don’t have to worry about my body literally shutting down on me. Yes, I can plan and make food every single day of the week.
We act like creating a world that is accepting of disabled people would be such an inconvenience, but I ask: why do you want so badly to live in a world that hates you? Why do you want to live in a world that demands you push yourself so hard, to neglect sleep and family for money and the illusion of success? Why do you want to live in a world that forces you to hate everything about yourself that falls short? That doesn’t fit within the confines of what a person ‘should’ be?
A world that is fair to me is a world that is fair to you, too. A world that accommodates disability is a world that is kind and loving, accepting of differences and rejecting cruelty.
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