Am I disabled?

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.

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Ali Hemsley

Ali is a 24 year old lifestyle blogger. She combines her advocacy and awareness work for chronic illness and mental health with her love for fashion. You can follow Ali on social media @alihemsley

6 Comments

  1. February 6, 2018 / 6:09 pm

    You should be so proud of yourself Ali, you’ve achieved so much and such a lovely person! I must admit I wouldn’t know whether to class someone as disabled until I knew what they classed themselves but I agree it’s not just those that you can see it physically, I found those videos really interesting as I don’t know much about disability myself xx

  2. February 6, 2018 / 7:41 pm

    Ali I loved this post! As someone who also has an invisible illness I found it so relatable <3 Really love the way you use your platform to discuss topics like this xx

  3. February 8, 2018 / 12:58 pm

    Love this post Ali, it must be so hard having an illness that may not be so obvious to others, especially if use it as material for their jokes. You’re doing amazing girl, sending all the love x

  4. February 11, 2018 / 10:32 pm

    I think you are an inspiration! You should be really proud of yourself and you are showing the world that you can live your life and achieve your goals no matter what. It is great that you write about this topic on your blog and you are using it to share awareness xx

  5. February 19, 2018 / 1:05 pm

    I am so so so happy I’m not the only one with imposter syndrome! I feel like I am currently bumbling around this grey area, not quite sure what I can call myself because no one day is the same and the last thing I want to do is either offend someone or miss-educate someone else. Whilst I don’t think having a label is vital as an individual, we live in a world where if people cannot label us, then they tend to either ignore you or not value you at all. Even if I gave my opinion here, without making it clear that I too have the label ‘fibro’ or ‘disabled’, my opinion could very easily be ignored or disregarded.

    Michaela | http://www.aureliablush.co.uk

    xxxxxx

  6. February 19, 2018 / 7:13 pm

    I think it’s so important to not just stick a single label on someone. There’s so many incredible things about an individual, one thing about the person doesn’t tell you who they are. Loved this post!
    Aleeha xXx
    http://www.halesaaw.co.uk/

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