I recently watched a series of short videos, called Identities, all about what it means to be disabled… and it got me thinking, am I disabled? Before reading this post, I definitely recommend checking out the videos here so you have a bit more context!
Umber’s story was the one I identified with most. Apart from her surgery scars, her disability is predominantly invisible – much like my M.E and Fibromyalgia. She discussed the almost ‘imposter-syndrome-like’ feeling she sometimes gets about calling herself disabled: “Pain is not visible. Tiredness isn’t visible. A lot of people who experience that don’t feel that they have a right to be called disabled.”
I remember seeing a clip of Ricky Gervais using M.E as part of his stand up comedy act… “Oh no, M.E, that’s the one where ‘I don’t feel like going to work today'”, he says, miming calling in sick and pretending to go back to sleep. Would Ricky have made the same joke about someone who’s in a wheelchair or is blind? No.. probably not. So how can I identify as disabled, when many people still don’t recognise the seriousness of my condition as they do others? This has been something that I’ve battled with for years. I have first hand experience of the stigma surrounding ‘invisible illnesses’ and many of my own so-called friends made similar jokes upon my diagnosis, via anonymous social media sites. Is it wrong I sometimes don’t feel ill enough so call myself disabled? Where is the line? Many days, especially when I was younger, I’ve had to use a walking stick… Does having that physical ‘tell’ make me feel more disabled? I’m not sure – and this is probably something I’ll battle with over time.
The other two videos were about Laurence and John. I particularly want to talk about Laurence – he’s a comedian with cerebral palsy and HE IS HILARIOUS. To be 100% honest with you, I didn’t know that much about cerebral palsy until I met my friend Jimmy, who not only has CP but also has the same wicked sense of humour that Laurence has! Jimmy is such an inspiration to me. He never fails to make me laugh, and the gym videos that he shares his Instagram (which you can visit here) are awe-inspiring. It’s funny though isn’t it… I admire him because of personality and his drive, which was probably shaped by his disability.
I think John really encapsulates everything I feel about disability, whether it’s mine or others:
“Identity is about a journey. Our identity changes all the time, I think. But little bits of it stick with us all the way through. So sometimes I’m a musician, sometimes I’m a disabled person, and I’m always a disabled person and I’m always a musician.”
So yes, I am disabled. But I’m also a million other things. I’m a girl with an Economics degree. I’m a fitness fanatic. I’m a lover of cheese. I’m a bookworm. I am so many different things and my disability is only one part of me. What do you think makes someone disabled? Do you have a disability? What did you think of the videos? Let me know in the comments!
*This post was kindly sponsored. All opinions are my own.