No, I’m Not “Hyper Focusing” On My Disability, You Are – Medium (Abby Katherine | March 2022)

A hand written slogan "NORMAL PEOPLE ARE SO WEIRD"

“The only disability in life is a bad attit-” With all due respect, no.

*CW: this article discusses ableism and its impact on mental health, I know firsthand that this is very difficult to process, especially if you have dealt with it. Read if you feel able and take care of yourself. Sending my love and gratitude.*

“Don’t let your disability define you.”

Whatever your mindset in terms of the ableist society around you, it can be very draining.  Umbrage and explaining can be tiring. After being in a wheelchair since 2007, Gary has the philosophy that, “People who matter don’t care and the people who care don’t matter.”  He is a member of the Disability Leadership Institute, which is a great place to catch up with his peers and hear the life experiences and approaches of other people who live with a disability.

I’ve lived almost 20 years as a disabled woman. Though I didn’t take my first steps until the age of 5, I’ve had no choice but to grow up in a hyper condensed amount of time. I’ve been forever bonded to the multitudes disabled life contains — the beautiful and the ugly. I’m not shocked by others’ bizarre behavior at this point. But I can’t wrap my head around the fact that people expect me to transcend my disability…I’m not even sure what that would look like. The closest thing I can think of would be my soul leaving my body, and that requires one of three things: drugs, dying, or being at a Taylor Swift concert every waking hour of my life. Choose your fighter! (To note: I choose the never-ending T Swift concert).

So, with those scenarios being completely unrealistic, I’m screwed in the transcendence department. Luckily, I have another unsolicited suggestion, to forget my disability, let it run its course, and just flip everyone off who can’t handle my presence. This ideology is one I’ve developed several hypotheses for and have tested out many times (the flipping people off part symbolically, though, I don’t have the fine motor skills or the guts to give the bird on a whim). Guess what? It doesn’t work, not even close. And when I tell people that this transcendental excursion and forced positivity fails, their faces turn inquisitive and frustrated, they begin to spew things like:

“You’re hyper-focusing on your disability,”

*after I ask for assistance* “you underestimate your capability, push harder.”

“Don’t wallow in your disability, that’s victimhood.”

“You should be more like this disabled person,” *shows me social media post* “they are just so positive and inspirational despite their circumstances. That mindset would be good for you.”

For the record, it’s only been in recent years I’ve started to let go of the unrealistic expectation to be an ultra-positive disabled person. I only really discuss the negatives if I open up to someone. But otherwise, I’m still constantly trying to embody this expectation because it feels like the only way to be taken seriously.

Whatever your mindset in terms of the ableist society around you, it can be very draining.  Umbrage and explaining can be tiring. After being in a wheelchair since 2007, Gary has the philosophy that, "People who matter don't care and the people who care don't matter."  He is a member of the Disability Leadership Institute, which is a great place to catch up with his peers and hear the life experiences and approaches of other people who live with a disability.

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