I have always worked hard to distance myself from my illness, my disability. I've struggled to say to the world that no, my disabilities do not define me, they do not make me who I am; but honestly that's not true.
I am who I am because of my disability. It has shaped me, formed me, moulded my body, left marks on my skin and it has had an even greater impact on the person inside.
There's a strong stigma that being disabled makes you less - broken and unworthy. It's something shameful and embarrassing. That it should be hidden away from society for fear of upsetting people, making them feel uncomfortable. I shrink when I'm in my wheelchair, I slouch down, avoiding eye contact and heaven forbid I see someone I know!
I hate that I do that. I hate that I allow it to make me feel small.
I've felt that I have to make up for my illness, that I have to prove myself in other areas, that I am worthy and capable, that I deserve my place not just in society; but on the planet. That because I'm ill I have to do something great and good, so that people can see there's more to me than the chair, the illness, the space I take up.
Over the past year I've noticed a shift inside myself, as the general view of disabled people in the media and public consciousness gets worse, as we are portrayed as liars, scroungers and cheats, drains on society, I have felt myself pushing back against this idea, this notion that we are less.
It's made me realise the strength and sheer awesomeness of disabled people. Not just the ones who set up charities, run world changing organisation or are pioneering disability rights; but all the people who manage to get through each day and even ENJOY each day as best we can, who refuse to give up and disappear, the way it feels many would like us to.
I admire the ones who are living, the best way they can, no matter how tough things get, how marginalised society is making them or how easy it would be to fade away.
I'm proud to stand (or rather sit) with them, to number myself among those who have been dealt an awful hand in life; but who are who they are. We won't, and should never have to, apologise for who we are. We should hold our heads high because we go to hell and back every single day, we live through pain and torment that no one should have to know exists and we're still here.
For every person that doubts us, every person who implies we're lazy or lying, you make us stronger.
You push, we push back.
Your ignorance makes us more determined to hold on just a little bit harder.
We're facing the same challenges and discrimination that women and civil rights activists have faced in the past.
They had to fight, to struggle to be accepted, to achieve the same rights as everyone else; but they achieved it.
We will too.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about people who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.
1/5/2013 06:33:59 pm
Hi Claire...I was looking for information online about being homebound because I a few months ago met a neighbor of mine who has MS.
Fantastic! Yesss! And well done for all that you do and all that you've done. People love to be negative & focus on what others can't do rather than what they can don't they? I've noticed that a lot in my own life, and it's very sad.
3/5/2013 09:10:32 am
I am sorry you have to deal with this stigma, but bravo to you for not feeling small and less than and instead rising above the ignorance. What an inspiration you are!
3/5/2013 09:29:57 am
A big "Hell Yhea" and High Fives to you Claire. You are such an inspiration to everyone. I love how you own who you are and take a stand for what you believe in. I agree with you that it's time that disabled people be treated with the respect that they deserve.
I applaud you for taking a stand, and being proud of who you are and what you have lived (are living!) though! We all have things that make us feel like we stand out, or that others see as "different" or "unacceptable"...it's all because of their fear...it has nothing to do with us. I want to picture you rolling down the street in your chair, head held high, looking fly, smiling, heart open and OWNIN' it!!! YAY! That made me giddy! Thanks for the inspiration!
3/5/2013 11:57:33 am
Claire - what I feel in your post is the shift that you are making internally. Very powerful! This shift radiates through all that you're doing to change the world. Onward!
3/5/2013 05:56:33 pm
Beautiful Claire! Just beautiful! I understand how hurtful it can be when others look at you and define you by physical appearances. Your 'Inner Light' is radiating brightly Claire! Keep on shining for you are a Beloved Being! xo
4/5/2013 05:21:04 pm
Amen Sister!! I commend you for your courage and strength and love your fortitude. When you heal, I heal, because after all we are all ONE. Rock on Miss Claire!!!
4/5/2013 11:00:17 pm
Claire, I just have to say: You rock! I'm really surprised and saddened to hear of the shift you mentioned - I have not seen this here in Canada, though it might not be hitting my radar. Push back and let us know how we can help! Hugs and butterflies, ~Teresa~
5/5/2013 03:35:52 am
I admire you, Claire, for your strength. I agree with you that people with disabilities should never have to apologise for who they are. There are many people who despite being physically healthy don't know how to enjoy life and they attack people who have learned to make the most out of life not matter what.
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I'm an author, disability activist, winner of the Good Housekeeping First Novel Competition and The EABA for Fiction 2020 and co-founder of Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses (ADCI).
The Choice is available from:
Title: The Choice
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